I was asked to winter formal my freshman year of high school by the Air Force JROTC commander who just happened to be a senior. Having the head-person in charge even talk to me at all was a big deal back then. I still don’t know how it happened, but with a bit of dumb luck and a lot of late nights out, we started dating. Danail and I were on top of the world. There was nothing we couldn’t accomplish if we set our minds to it, and so we did. We were always out on adventures. You could catch us hiking, backpacking, or just hanging out with friends, but we always had huge smiles on our faces.
Slowly getting to know each other better, and planning our futures together, one important detail I found out is that during her sophomore year of high school she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She was in remission, but at the expense of having to endure extensive treatments of chemotherapy and radiation. Halfway through my sophomore year (we were still dating) she was re-diagnosed with malignant tumors in her abdomen. She went through several hospitals and even more treatment plans, keeping her optimism high and still living to love life.
Fast forward to this last summer when at 2am on June 12th, 2012 at the Cancer Treatment Center of America in Arizona, our last hope, Danail Lynn Frey took her last breath. She meant more to me than I could ever comprehend at the time, and my life was suddenly derailed in an instant. Immediately after Danail passed away, I felt abandoned and without purpose. I had shaped my life around this one individual and for the first time in my life, I didn’t know what I wanted. Danail was a nursing student at ASU, and we had always planned on me becoming a doctor, and then us joining an organization that benefits third world countries.
Having to change my original plans of becoming a neurosurgeon to shape my future with someone else was definitely not an easy decision. Now I didn’t know what to do, and I had to get out. With that being the first summer that I wasn’t packed full of already scheduled activities, I ended up learning how to scuba dive and I went on a trip to San Carlos, Mexico. This trip was just the chance I needed to get out of the painfully familiar places at home and really let me think about what I was going to do.
I realized that I had to regain a sense of self and maybe even some independence. Having witnessed first-hand Danail’s amazing oncology team provide for her the care she most certainly deserved, I was able to better fully realize that I knew being in healthcare, more specifically being a physician, was still in store for my future. On top of that, being in the Civil Air Patrol’s emergency services team and already having a background in search and rescue attending the National Emergency Services Academy in Indiana, I decided to combine the two.
This thought process started a new personal track revolving around my future that ignited a new fire and passion having been able to better understand the realities of medicine. With that combination, my new focus all geared toward bettering our current healthcare system and looking into international rescue and relief with organizations like the WHO. All of these events helped shape what I want to be, and ultimately, at the end of the day, I know I will realistically change my mind again. Currently here is where I am at.
I know it may sound eager, unrealistic, and possibly even pretentious to say this with the only one-specialty or track that doctors are supposed to choose, but maybe eventually not. I would like to practice in multiple fields that I believe are all connected to make the ultimate healer. I have interned as an ophthalmic technician learning about eyes and optics, which has really intrigued me. However, I have also always been fascinated by human behavior and the inner workings of the mind and plan to potentially major in neuroscience.
Because of all the second-hand chemo and radiation tragic memories that I experienced, I want to bring alternative cures to cancer into tested clinical environments studying oncology. On top of that, I will always be in the rescue settings. So, trauma and world health medicine are also on my mind. I want to always build upon my education and health experience to incorporate that knowledge into a practice of its own. If Danail taught me anything, it would have been how to love, and that if I set my mind to something, especially as important as medicine, I need to remain true to my goals and use her as my inspiration to achieve them.