Life Changing Moments #4: illness

When Sarah*, an Indonesian student, found out that she had tumors on her brain, she literally changed everything about her life: she decided not to spend years in medical school and choose to study abroad.

‘The moment I found out that I had a medical condition, my whole perspective towards life changed,’ says Sarah*, an 18-year-old student from Indonesia who was diagnosed with several brain tumors when she was 16.

Two years ago, she has a medical check up because she was suffering from constant, intense headaches. ‘Doctors couldn’t find the headaches’ cause, so I was going back and forth to the hospital for months.’

Coming to terms

The first months were very tough, not only for Sarah but for her family as well. Her parents couldn’t cope with what was happening to her. ‘I think they have realized now that there is nothing they can actually do about it, so they have come in terms with it in a way.’

Although they still hope that the tumors are not malignant, Sarah doubts it because there is a family history of cancer. ‘I feel like they are avoiding the situation in a way, but I am not blaming them. I know it must be really hard for them.’

Nevertheless, she believes that there is a positive side to the problem as well. ‘I am lucky that I found out about it quite early. Some people have tumors but they only find it out when they are already in the final stage. Then, I think it is even harder for their families to accept it.’

Going abroad

Due to her medical condition, Sarah decided to abandon her dreams of studying medicine because she didn’t want to spend the rest of her life studying. But she didn’t know what else she really wanted to do, so she applied to several universities. She got accepted into the faculty of law of the University of Groningen.

Today, she enjoys every single moment of her time abroad. ‘I always lived with my family, so it is a new experience for me to live in a foreign country all by myself and I actually like the city a lot. I am happy that I have met people from all over the world here.’

‘I believe everything is going to be fine’
Living in a student city and seeing people who use drugs or other things that could be harmful is disappointing to her now. ‘It’s such a shame. They have like their whole life ahead of them and they actually choose to throw it away.’

For her, being surrounded by people who can understand her is vital at the moment. ‘I have a friend here with whom I can share everything. I think it is really important to have someone who stands by you in your difficult moments, so I believe everything is going to be fine.’

*Per the student’s request, Sarah is a fictional name.

Have you or someone you know experienced something that changed your mindset or daily routine, for better or for worse? Valia is looking for people who are studying at the RUG and would like to share their experience with others. If you are interested, contact Valia and you could be the next guest featured on the Life Changing Moments podcast.