<p>My son who is in the process of applying to Wesleyan as Early Admission I is a brain cancer survivor. Despite some learning disability from the 7-1/2 hour operation at age 13 to remove the tumor, a year of chemotherapy, and (most importantly) the 6 weeks of radiation treatment to his brain (which causes scar tissue resulting in some cognitive and short-term memory problems) he never missed a year of school. He has A- to B+ grades, got 5s in two AP exams last year, is taking three more AP courses and English honors this year. SAT II: 710, 740, and 790 on the writing sample. SAT I: 670 and 690.</p>
<p>He is NOT a leader! He is a happy and productive follower, though. He plays the trumpet (uses a brace to keep it steady because of lingering left-hand tremor from operation) and enjoys debate club and Spanish club. He will have great letters of recommendation as you can imagine, from teachers who adore him and think he's very smart, from his rabbi who was pretty impressed that he went through with his bar mitzvah on the last day of his radiation treatments (bald, thin as a rail, and green at the time), from the college counselor. Below is the first draft of his essay. Is it too long? Ideas? What are his chances, would you think? All opinions welcome!</p>
<p>We think the end is lame. Ideas of non-lame direction to take it?</p>
I owe my favorite hobby to my grandfather. He's a dedicated early adopter, so replacing his gadgets every year or so is more an obligation than a choice. His loss, though, is often my gain. My greatest gain came when he gave me a Nikon digital camera - for his purposes rendered "obsolete" by the very next model. I was captivated, taking dozens of pictures the first weekend I had it.
When I look back on those first pictures, I see I spent most of my time focused on the clearing around my house and its abundance of songbirds. Having just lost a beloved family cat - a lifelong hunter and eater of woodland creatures - we found ourselves able to put up the feeders and birdbaths that would previously have made a poultry buffet for our Alex. Early on I hardly dared step outdoors with camera in hand, maybe fearing that any intrusion on my part would scare away the birds and that the scene would be lost forever due to my rash intrusion. As a consequence, I ended up with a substantial collection of pictures of birds eating sunflower seeds.
People always used to ask about my cancer ordeals and about why I still felt disengaged from life even after a period of remission implied that the ordeals were "over." I would tell them I wished for an answer at least as much as they did.
I didn't give the question much more thought until junior year, when our English teacher asked us to reflect personally on a book we were studying. Ceremony, by Leslie Marmon Silko, describes the sad lives of some Native American Vietnam veterans who can't get over the war. In telling their story, the book relates a fable about a boy who gets lost in bear country and starts to become a bear himself. A shaman is consulted, and he tells the family that "...." then he would be in-between forever." The story paralleled the veterans' limbo between the world of war and the world of peace. I felt a connection with my own experience as as a cancer survivor, trying to make that step between two worlds. Almost as soon as I was told that I had cancer, my universe split in half - there was the "sick" world, where you go to the hospital, stay away from school, and are walled off from the other world, the "healthy" one, where normal people go about their normal business. I had only one foot in life.
Thinking about this, I reviewed the uniformly disappointing pictures I'd taken in my timid first weekend of photography. I noticed the windows that had marked the border between me and what I had thought of as "my tableaux" had seemed clear when I took the pictures, but now I saw they had caused a dull and removed appearance of the photos, a problem that had to do with more than just dirt on the glass. They marked a clear line between an indoor world that includeed me and an outdoor world that didn't.
There's more of a divide between the kitchen and the yard than there is between the yard and the rest of the world. To complete healing, I had to step across the mental border/barrier that separated me from the outside "normal" world, just as I realized taking better pictures meant I had to step out the door. Since then I've traveled and taken pictures in Washington State, Canada, Arizona, and even explored the space outside and around my house. The world looks wonderfully big.</p>