Sara Pirkle | Health is a Gift

Document created by Sara Jo Lee on Mar 22, 2020
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Sara Pirkle shares what drives her to achieve more.
My Journey to #AchieveMore
One month after I completed my PhD in English, I was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. The news shocked me so much that when the doctor said, "It is cancer," I thought she said, "It isn't cancer." My brain refused to accept it. I was 33. A runner. At the beginning of my academic career. I didn't have time to be sick. However, cancer doesn't care what anybody's plans are. Pacing the exam room, I called my identical twin Amy, and as I whispered to her what I could hardly believe I was saying, my knees gave out, and I crumbled to the floor. "I'll be there in 5 hours," she said. At the time, I was teaching at Mercer University and Amy taught at the University of Alabama. Still, Amy made the 10-hour round-trip drive for my 16 doses of chemotherapy, and she took care of me after each treatment, changing my sweat-soaked sheets, spoon-feeding me soup, rubbing my back as I cried. I continued to teach during this time and suffered from "chemo brain," which made it difficult to remember literary terms and authors' names. Grading essays took twice as long. Focusing on my job, though, meant I spent less time thinking about being sick. I've been in remission four years, but my fear of recurrence motivates me to make every day that I'm healthy count. I am hyper-focused on living in the present and taking advantage of every opportunity to travel with my twin and put my education and creativity to use. In 2017, I got a position at UA, and now I get to teach a subject I love, host monthly poetry readings for the community, and live in the same town as my twin. Every day is a gift. I hope my students see that when they look at me.

What Drives You to #AchieveMore?