One of the strongest, most inspirational women I know is my ten year old niece, Eliza. When she was four months old, she was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a devastating genetic illness that none of us knew existed in our family until my sister and brother-in-law’s prenatal testing. Even with both of her parents carrying the gene, the chances were greater she’d be a carrier like her brother, Andrew, but sadly, that was not to be. Since her diagnosis, she had grown and thrived in ways that have amazed everyone she knows – Eliza has blossomed from a sickly four month old into a radiant young lady who doesn’t let anything stop her.
Dance is physically very good for her, and she has told us that when she dances, she doesn’t think of her illness or anything else that stresses her out. Her dedication to her craft is amazing – she has dance lessons six days a week, six competitions next winter and will be performing her first tap solo as part of those competitions. How many 10 year olds do you know who can do that and excel in school as well? Never mind that she has to fit constant treatments and medical appointments into an already crazy schedule.
“Little E” as we call her just doesn’t take no for an answer – there isn’t anything she can’t (and won’t) do, whether it was going off the diving board at the pool before her first swimming lesson or playing catcher on her Little League team before she became a dancer(trust me, she could field a double play like nobody’s business). “I can’t” just doesn’t exist in her vocabulary and in a short ten years, she has embraced life with more grace and poise than most adults I know. That’s why I will never know anyone stronger or more inspirational than my lovely, compassionate, intelligent niece. She has given me a beautiful example to follow and I’ve learned more from her in the past 10 years about how I want to live my life than I ever thought possible to learn from a child. Thank you, Eliza, for being who you are and inspiring me every day!