Submitted by Brianna Ensor
I’m ready for my first day of kindergarten. I’ve waited my whole short life for this day, to ride the big, yellow school bus and make new friends! With my Disney princess backpack and my matching lunch box, I head to the bus.
The bus drops me off, and I walk through the big metal doors to find a teacher’s aide, to help me to my classroom. My heart is racing as I walk into the colorful room, and look for my name on the crayon- shaped name tag. I take a seat. Beside me is a young boy who is smiling.
“Can I sit next to you?” I say shyly.
“Yes! My name’s Dakota! What’s your name?”
“Brianna. I’m scared no one will like me…”
“I like you!”
Dakota’s smile grows as he grabs my hand.
From that day on, we become “best friends forever”!
I am 5 years old and have just learned that my new “best friend forever” is very sick and may die. Death for a 5 year old is a hard concept to comprehend and I never really thought about it too much, until I lost my “best friend forever”.
Dakota Pottorff was my first friend. Shortly after meeting him we found out we were actually distant cousins which was exciting. He was a loving boy and was stronger than most children our age. Dakota was also very sick.
When Dakota was 3 he was diagnosed with leukemia. Leukemia is a very serious form of cancer affecting a patient’s bone marrow and white blood cells. Although Dakota was very sick, he hardly ever showed it. Often times you hear about how children are extremely resilient when they get sick, and Dakota exhibited this throughout his life.
He was like any other child our age. He loved NASCAR and his favorite driver was Jeff Gordon. Dakota also enjoyed sports. We played basketball and tag together every recess. He smiled even when he was hurting.
Dakota was often bullied by ignorant children for how he looked. He was bald and had dark bags under his eyes from his cancer treatments. Whenever children would say mean things to him, I would stick up for him. I looked out for him because I loved him.
Dakota was constantly undergoing chemotherapy and radiation at Hershey Medical Center. I’d often visit him during his treatments and I watched the nurses care for him. The hospital was huge. Although there were sick children at the hospital, I loved visiting because the environment was warm and inviting. I also enjoyed being around Dakota’s nurses. The nurses were loving and helped Dakota feel comfortable with his disease.
For a short time Dakota was in remission, and it seemed he beat the cancer.
On a rainy spring day in March of my 1st grade year, I got called down to the office. I was confused to see my mom waiting for me. My mom told me that I was getting out of school early, which I was excited about, but confused why. In the car, my mom told me the news.
On March 26, 2004, Dakota James Pottorff passed away peacefully in his father’s arms. It was really hard for me to understand why God had to take my best friend because I was so young. But I know now that Dakota had a purpose.
Dakota touched the lives of many people, including my own. It never seems fair losing anyone you love, young or old.
Watching Dakota go through his fight and seeing the nurses help him made me realize I wanted to be a nurse.
Often, people are shocked when I tell them I want to work as a nurse in pediatric oncology.
“I could never do that.”
“How are you going to emotionally handle seeing children die every day?”
I receive these comments often. To me though, working in pediatric oncology is something I am passionate about. From watching my cousin struggle, to watching my grandmother suffer from breast cancer, I have a fascination and a calling to help cancer patients.
Although cancer can be terminal, it is not always a death sentence. I want to make a difference in the lives of children with cancer by making them feel comfortable with the precious time they have left. I want to comfort loved ones when their family members pass, and congratulate those who have completed treatment and are in remission.
We all have a purpose. Whether that purpose is large or small, long or short, everyone has a purpose. My purpose in life is to help people, specifically children with cancer and their families. I intend to work hard throughout my upcoming years of nursing school and specialize in pediatric oncology when I graduate.
My passion for cancer patients and my love for helping people, will help me fulfill my life’s purpose.