When I was in middle school, I learned that my cousin Mark was coming for a while to live with us. I knew he was arriving because he needed treatment, but being twelve I did not know much else. I just remember being excited that he was coming and what energy he added to our home while he was around.
Mark was a few years older than my brother and I, and for me the age gap felt significant. But he was so much fun to have around. While he and my brother spent more quality time together, the times I remember best are of the three of us watching episodes of the first season of South Park together. He also often sat with me while I did my homework.
Mark had a brain tumor. I am not sure that I truly understood this until his surgery, and I don’t think I understood the severity until years later. He was not “sick” to me at that time, because he didn’t “act” sick.
As he stayed with us throughout his treatments and surgery, I watched him handle his situation with grace and a sense of humor. I watched him take his medication and heard my mom talk about his seizures and doctor visits. He went through all of it without letting me know if any of it bothered him. He went through it all only a couple of years before medications and seizures would become a part of my story.
Mark is an inspiration to me partly because of not only the way he handled his stay with us, but also because of what he chose to do after he got home. Rather than focusing inward, he gathered resources around his town to start a charity event for people who suffered like him. Today, A Walk for the Mind continues to grow every year, raising more and more money for brain tumor research and bringing together people like Mark and their families.
I think about Mark’s story a lot. When I tell my friends “I want to make a difference”, I give Mark as an example of someone whose footsteps I would be happy to follow in.
While I don’t feel compelled to start a charity event like he did (I have to play to my strengths and mine simply don’t lie in doing what that requires), Mark does inspire me to use the opportunities I’m given and the resources I have to be of as much help as possible.