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Harshada Rajani Headshot

The Cost of My Catastrophe

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CATASTROPHE
The Gift Cancer Leaves Its Survivors | Alamy

Click here to read an original op-ed from the TED speaker who inspired this post and watch the TEDTalk below.

Finding opportunities out of tragedies, making dreams out of nightmares, and discovering gifts out of punishments. Those seem like the great accomplishments of an insightful survivor, but near impossible for a naive fighter. My wonderful life was stolen like a secret, thrown away like garbage, silenced like a sin, for no reason any doctor or priest could come up with. This sounds like nothing more than a harsh tragedy, seems like nothing more than an inescapable nightmare, and feels like nothing more than a unfair punishment, for being a little too happy. I can't readily see any opportunities, dreams, or gifts in this mess I have to now call my life. But what if I could dig a bit deeper, find in me new levels of maturity, and see this as a gift? 

It's so much easier to lazily lie in my comfortable bed of bitterness. It's so much easier to get lost in the jargon of negativity and regret. It's so much easier to hate the world for doing this to me. But if I consciously choose to look past the simplicity of this as a punishment, I know I can realize the complexity of this as a gift. All it takes is a subtle shift in diction and in perspective, to twist the arms of fate from an ugly curse into a hidden blessing. I'm tired of being the innocent victim of a nightmare and would rather be the proud victor of a dream. It won't be about what all the stroke has taken from me anymore but what I've taken from it. I could have the power over my life again, not the big bully that is my stroke. But I'll be the first one to admit that this is easier said than done. But could I, just for a moment, let go of all my anger and bitterness and just accept this all as a gift... ?

It's brought me and hundreds of others an appreciation for the fragility of life. It's saved me from the stress and rigor of medical school. It's given me a whole, new, meaningful purpose. -- Harshada Rajani

My stroke has brought my family together, and made us stronger than ever before. It's brought me and hundreds of others an appreciation for the fragility of life. It's saved me from the stress and rigor of medical school. It's given me a whole, new, meaningful purpose. It's made the world show me such an overwhelming amount of love, I don't even know what to do with all of it. It's made me feel breakable, yet strong; frustrated, yet challenged; hurt, yet humbled. It's caused pretty much all of my 1,500 Facebook friends to reach out to me in the past few years, and you know that's miraculous. It's stripped me of everything physical that makes me, me, and people still actually like me and care about me. It's made me realize my self-worth, and that gift is irreplaceable. It's brought out my strength, my courage, and my fight, all of which I didn't even know I had. Now, I have no doubt that I can face any challenge, any obstacle, and any adventure. Now, I can see the silver linings of my sickness, the opportunities in my tragedy, and the gifts in my punishment.

But it's all come at a cost, a very steep cost, one that weighs on not only my bank account, but even more on my heart. For each and everything I've gained from my stroke, I've lost even more: 1 fun-filled youth. 1 bright future. 1 future pediatrician. 500 dreams. 9,000,000 tears. 1,460 days of rehabilitation (and counting). 754 doctors' visits. 1 hell of a lot of money. 27 missed friends' weddings. 1 missed brother's graduation. 26 potential dance performances. 3,000 potential miles run. 9,000,000 lost smiles. This bill isn't even close to being finished. I'm so blinded by my feelings of loss and regret, I don't know how to stop and truly appreciate the positives in the pain. I'm still just a naive fighter, struggling through every single day. So let me ask you all: Is this a curse or a blessing, a tragedy or an opportunity, a punishment or merely, just a gift?

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