We see each other once a year if we are lucky, we never call each other to chat yet when we get together there is no doubt we are closely connected. Do you have a friendship like that?
We met years ago working together with special education students, she was a paraprofessional, I was the teacher. A native of Panama, she chose to call me Ramona because Roberta just didn’t make sense to her.
Today we met for lunch. We started with the usual, what our children are doing and are they happy–according to our scale. Once that was determined we drifted to our other usual topic, and the topic that inspired this blog post, her health.
My friend has sickle cell anemia, a disease in which your body produces abnormally shaped red blood cells which can cause pain and organ damage. She has had it from birth, lives with pain daily, has had many episodes that lead to hospitalization and most recently “almost went to the other side
That is a snippet of what she lives with and I only share it with you to get to my point. When she was a young girl in Panama her mother did not want her to leave her sight. After high school she chose to leave the area to become a teacher against her mother’s wishes. As she states, “If I honored my mother’s wishes I would have been a disabled person my whole life
Instead she got her degree to teach in Panama, moved to the United States, got married, had two children and became a paraprofessional. She decided she wanted to become a teacher here in the states but her credentials from Panama would not get her a teaching certificate. With a full-time job, two young children and a disease that would not leave her alone she enrolled in college. Some semesters she only had the time or financial resources to take one course but she was determined to get her degree.
Seeing her every day at work I was awed by her strength and determination. After many years she was able to quit work and attend school full time. Finally she was ready to graduate – with honors. The morning of graduation I was so excited for her I got ready early and called to say “I’ll see you on stage!” Her husband answered the phone. There would be no graduation; she was taken to the hospital the night before
As always, a few weeks later she was back on her feet and ready to move forward. Her department at the university held a special graduation ceremony just for her. She applied for teaching jobs and was hired as a Spanish teacher at a high school, her dream job. She started the first multi-cultural club for students, and is working now on her thesis for her master’s degree. A success story? Yes, but not one that everyone would achieve
My friend is able to look her adversity smack in the eye and say, “You are not holding me back!”
She is stubborn, tough and determined.
She has a core that raises her above adversity.
She is someone I admire and love.
As she says, “We are sisters in our own way, both defeating the odds.”
We all have a strong core. We all have the ability to take whatever our adversity is and rise above it. It takes strength, courage and the connection with others who support our will.
I hope my friend’s story lends strength to someone reading this. I know “Ramona” is always inspired to keep moving forward when she is with this woman, friend, “sister in our own way.”