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It's never too late to work on your bucket list

Twenty years ago, when I went through cancer, I realized how fragile life really is. Just when I was getting ready to take my first chemotherapy, as I sat on the chair, this thought crossed my mind: One moment you can be full of life, healthy and enjoying all around you; the next moment you could be ill and life is not certain anymore.

You realize you may not have all the time you need to do all the things you want. You understand life is a gift and should not ever be taken for granted. I decided right then that if I were to survive, I was going to make a bucket list. And so I did.

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The nurses who took care of me made a huge difference in a very difficult moment for me; not only did they do their jobs as they were supposed to, but they were also caring,showing empathy and humanity.

They did not looked at me as just another patient, but as a human being.

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I was, in fact, the youngest patient they ever had, and their first pediatric patient. I will always remember this: It was the day of my first chemotherapy — also the day of my 18th birthday — and they got me a cake and sang happy birthday. They had never met me before, but they knew that day was supposed to be special, and at the same time one of the hardest days of my life. And so, they made sure to make it special for me, so I could always have a nice memory of that day, regardless the circumstances around it.

Because of their actions, they inspired one of the things in my bucket list: To become a pediatric oncology nurse and help others the way they helped me. At that moment, I was already halfway through my college degree, so I decided to finish that degree and then do a second degree, this time in nursing.

Of course, as many of you know, life sometimes — in fact, many times — can get in the way. It was always one thing or another: Marriage, having my first child, work, economic responsibilities, having more children, etc. But something always seemed to be "in the way" of starting that second degree and completing one of the top things in my bucket list, until a year ago.

This time last year, I decided to finally take the steps and go back to college to get that second degree. My children were not so young anymore, they were in school all day, and so I could go to college during their school hours. It was time to catch up on that bucket list.

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I knew it was going to be hard to go back to college after many years out, that it was going to be very busy for me — between my classes and my children's classes and after-school events — and that there were going to be some sacrifices made, but in the end it was worth it because I was doing something that I've always wanted to do.

I started my classes in spring of last year. They were online classes so I had to get familiar with all the new tools of distance learning and online education. It was a little bit weird for me, since I was used to traditional on-site college classes, but I learned to use it — and in fact, I liked it — got familiar with it, studied hard and had the best grades.

Yes, I spent hours and hours reading, writing papers and taking quizzes and exams. All the time I wasn't spending with my children and family, I was studying; late at night, or very early in the morning, instead of watching my favorite movies or TV shows, I was studying. But, in the end, all the sacrifices and the long hours of study paid off because I got all A's.

This summer, I am taking a Biology summer class. It is very intense as it is a one-semester class compacted in a four-hour class for 20 days. Every class is very intense; there are a lot of topics discussed. Every day there are quizzes and there is at least one exam every week.

I study during the day — after spending some time out doing fun things with my children — then I go to class in the evening for four hours, I get home late at night, and then I go back to study.Yes, it is very intense, very busy and very high-paced; but I am proud of myself because I am doing what I need to do to achieve my goals, regardless that I am already 37 years old.

I am back in class with young students, students that just got out of college and have most of the topics discussed still fresh in their minds; but I am there, always on time, being responsible, asking questions, studying hard and doing my best, so I know I will succeed because I have a personal and passionate reason to achieve this goal. All you need to do to achieve something is to really want it with all your heart; and I really want to do this.

I guess what I am trying to say is that if you have a bucket list, it is never too late to work on it. Some of us make those bucket lists and then tuck them away in a place where we never see it again. Let's get those bucket lists back. Let's look at them carefully to remind us why we have those lists, to remind us the things that we always wanted to do or the places we always wanted to see, to remind us what was important for us and start working on it.

It is never too late to work on your bucket list, never to late to start making your dreams come true. It will require some sacrifices and most likely it will not be easy, but it is all worth it.

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