Perfection In My Eyes
By Ilene Arevalo
Andrea, my sister, is important to me in so many different ways. She always encouraged me to pursue my dreams; at the same time, she was my biggest competition because she was older than me. In my eyes, she was the symbol of perfection. Andrea taught me to take risks in life and to never be afraid to face dilemmas. She set the bar for what it means to be a true, independent woman.
Andrea was committed to setting a good example for me. She was self-motivated and she received her bachelor's degree from San Francisco State, making her the first member of the family to graduate college. She also embraced her Salvadoran-American culture and encouraged me to do the same. On top of being a full-time student, Andrea worked two jobs and commuted every day from San Jose to San Francisco. I never once heard her complain about her commute to work and school. She was determined, gracious, and uniquely hard working.
In my eyes, she was truly an amazing individual. She was always quick to dedicate her time and effort to others. She courageously took risks to make her dreams come true. Andrea made her loved ones her priority by setting all of her own problems aside to help others.
However, in the summer of 2015, Andrea was diagnosed with a cancer called Osteosarcoma. After that, my sister fought each and every day for her life. I've never met a real soldier, but in my eyes, Andrea had all the qualities of one - bravery, courage, and strength.
There is a particular event that sticks out in my mind. I was sleeping over while she recovered from chemo. She looked tired and pale from all the medicine that she had taken earlier. Despite that, Andrea got up and starting writing something on the whiteboard that was taped behind the door. She wrote,
Cancer is so limited...
It cannot cripple love.
It cannot shatter hope.
It cannot corrode faith.
It cannot eat away peace.
It cannot destroy confidence.
It cannot kill friendship.
It cannot shut out memories.
It cannot silence courage.
It cannot reduce eternal life.
It cannot quench the Spirit.
Author: Dr. Robert L. Lynn
I gazed at the whiteboard trying to analyze the poem. She smiled at me and said that these words helped her get through each day. When I heard that, my first thought was that she was going crazy. But the more I thought about it, the more I began to understand the poem’s significance. She was showing me that cancer did not take ownership of her, she took ownership of her cancer. On that particular day, Andrea showed me the power of humanity and courage. I don’t think I could ever conquer what Andrea had to go through and she made it seem so effortless. Throughout all of the radiation and chemotherapy, she still managed to keep her head up.
On April 24, 2016, Andrea left her loved ones behind and joined the army of angels in the sky. I could never compare to Andrea nor would I try to. She was truly an angel in my eyes. Andrea's journey was remarkable and her grace throughout it inspires me to make a difference in the world, the way she did in mine. She pushed me to be a better person by helping others.
I’m not sure why God took away an extraordinary human being. But cancer does not discriminate. Andrea lived her life the way everyone ought to: like every day was the last. Even though she’s gone, in my eyes, Andrea did beat cancer. Cancer couldn’t extinguish her love, humanity, or courage. For that reason, I believe that Andrea won. Andrea, you are perfect.