It’s cancer. Again.

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This is my brother, Jude. He’s ten years old. And in December 2010, he had a bone marrow transplant that saved his life.

Today, I found out that his cancer has returned.

I’m just completely and utterly shocked, and never in a million years would I have expected this. I still secretly don’t believe this is happening, and I really think this could be just a really bad dream or an elaborate April Fool’s joke everyone is in on except for me. But the waves of guilt and anxiety and fear and anger have been crashing down on me, and no matter who I tell or how many times I tell people, I just can’t get these feelings to go away.

“It’s not your fault,” I was told by every single person I talked to today. “It’s not your fault.” It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. The words sear into my head with the intensity and pain of a hot branding iron.

With each repetition of this phrase, I don’t feel any better. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault that Jude relapsed. It’s not your fault that your bone marrow didn’t work. And it’s not your fault that he’s going through this again. My mind becomes numb as I hear this phrase repeated over and over and over and over. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault.

But no matter how many times people tell me it’s not my fault, that I shouldn’t feel guilty for my brother getting cancer a second time, the feelings of guilt don’t go away. I feel guilty for every time he came in my room and asked me if I wanted to do something. I feel guilty for every time he asked if I wanted to watch a movie with him. And I feel guilty for every time he asked me if I would watch him play video games. If I could go back in time, I would’ve stopped whatever I was doing to just be with him, before he was in pain, before it became too difficult for him to smile.

KERA, Dallas’ NPR affiliate, did a feature on my brother’s cancer story and recovery that ended just last week about how we’ve moved on from the cancer experience and what we’ve taken with us. When I was asked whether or not I worry about Jude’s health, I answered with a resounding “No.” I don’t worry because Jude’s health will be fine. Yet, I was proven wrong in the worst way possible. The “He’s been cured” line I told everyone back then is now a lie.

“I don’t know how I’ll get through this” has been my anthem today. And as I write this, I still have absolutely no idea how I’ll be able to cope. All I want is a sense of normality. “Normal” is the result I’m searching for but one I know is impossible to achieve. Because “normal” means my parents come home, my brother goes back to playing on the laptop at his desk, I go back to worrying about my physics class, and my brother doesn’t have cancer again.

When I was told that Jude’s leukemia returned, a few thoughts rushed into my mind. How will I ever get through this again? It was a fairly typical response, a textbook reaction of someone in my situation. But what surprises me is what my next immediate thoughts were. Will I have to email my teachers and ask for extensions on tests and homework? What does this mean for my extracurriculars? Am I still allowed to be as involved at my school as I currently am? Has everything I’ve been working towards for the last three years just been thrown out the window for something that’s “not my fault”? It feels incredibly selfish to wonder about what happens to me first, and maybe it’s not what everyone expects—or wants—me to worry about, but that’s all I can think of. And I just can’t even fathom how much longer my brother will be a cancer patient, what that will mean, and whether we’ll both make it out of this mess.

At this point, what I really want is to clear to me, and there are only a few things that I really want right now. I really want a strawberry-banana smoothie that’s thick, but still thin enough I can drink it through a straw. I really want to go to the library and check out a book on sociology that I’ve kept on hold for the past few days. I really want to reach a conclusion on whether or not I’m taking psychology next year and which class I’d have to give up to take it. And I really want to wake up.

What I’m thankful for in 2014

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Earlier this year, I had no idea I would even make it to the end of the year. My life seemed like it’d forever be just a few things: adjusting to school and doing election work. But, as it’s very clear to see, I made it. And with Christmas and New Year’s ahead of us, I thought this would be a good time to reflect on the many things I have to be thankful for.

I’m thankful for my friends and family who’ve supported me through all my endeavors. And even when I ask a lot from them, they’ve always continued standing by my side.

I’m thankful for a strong end to my sophomore year and the incredible amount of progress I’ve made through my junior year, even though it’s been a little rocky.

I’m thankful for having had the opportunity to travel this year—spanning from New Orleans, to Washington, D.C., to New York City—and being able to see both old places and new places.

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The Capitol as seen from the deck of the Newseum.

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The Battle for Texas: An Anniversary

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This is Part 2 in a series about the 2014 Texas gubernatorial race, The Battle for Texas. Read “Part 1: Meet the Democrats” here.

Yesterday marked three months until Election Day 2014 in the United States, and in Texas that means a very important race: the gubernatorial race between Democratic darling state Senator Wendy Davis and her Republican opponent, current Attorney General Greg Abbott. The Texas Democratic Party has never been more energized, and as both campaigns are preparing to go into full swing coupled with the national attention on Texas politics for the first time in a long time, the 2014 race could never be bigger.

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This past month, I had the opportunity to see Texas politics up close and personal. From June 26 to July 16, I attended the University of Texas National Institute of Forensics (UTNIF), a three week debate camp in the heart of Austin. While it wasn’t explicitly related to politics—although all of us stayed in touch with big political events, especially the disappointing Hobby Lobby Supreme Court ruling—my journey in Texas politics officially began around the same time UTNIF started.

The Filibuster Anniversary

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Thai Culture and Food Festival

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On May 24–25, the Thai community and Buddhist Center of Dallas celebrated their first Thai Culture and Food Festival.

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I love when different groups open and share parts of their culture, so it was really exciting to have the Thai community be willing to open up to the rest of Dallas to share their food, music, traditional dances, and even their Buddhist temple. And even though this was the first time the Thai community has held a cultural festival at the Buddhist Center of Dallas, it was definitely a success.

As soon as I walked in, I was surrounded by tons of tents selling all sorts of food.

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There was definitely more than enough pad thai and egg rolls to go around, but the most difficult part about it was that the lines were really ridiculously long. I guess just too many people like Thai food? Continue reading

I Am An “Other”

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imageLast week, I took my AP World History exam. When I left the exam, I felt lost and confused. But it wasn’t the questions about world history that bothered me the most—it was actually the standard identity questions before the test began. While I could rattle off my name, address, and school without an issue, there was one question that stumped me.

Race and ethnicity.

I was given a few options and was told to select one:

  • American Indian or Alaska Native
  • Asian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander
  • Black or African American
  • Hispanic, Latino, or Latin American
  • White
  • Other

I am mixed race. I am a Hapa, a half-Asian person. The easiest and most logical response for most people would be simply to mark Asian American. That’s what people see me as, right? Well, not exactly—people don’t really know what I am when they first see me and I’ve gotten everything from Middle Eastern, Hispanic, to purely white. But when I tell people I’m half-Filipino and half-white, doesn’t that make people treat me as a Filipino-ish person and not a white person? Well, sure.

And yes, in the past when I was told to only choose one, I would choose either “Filipino” or “Asian,” since I identify more with my Asian side, partly because I’m more comfortable with that part of my identity and partly because society doesn’t want to see me as a white person since my skin is a shade of brown. And last fall, when I took the PSAT that required me to list one race, I chose Asian and suddenly felt very weird and guilty about it. That was the first time I ever felt guilty about that.

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The Battle for Texas: Meet the Democrats

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This is Part 1 in a series about the 2014 Texas gubernatorial race, The Battle for Texas.

Texas Capitol and flag, taken by Jon Wiley.

Texas Capitol and flag, by Jon Wiley.

On Tuesday, March 4, all eyes in America were focused on one state: Texas. People across the state cast ballots for their party’s primary election, leading to some very interesting results from both the Republicans and the Democrats. The current governor, Republican Rick Perry, is stepping down, leaving the Governor’s Mansion in Austin completely open. (As a disclosure, I personally align with the Democratic Party, and I very much hope to see the Democratic Party win this November.)

The Filibuster

The beginning of the battle for Texas really begins in June, when State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) launched a dramatic 11-hour filibuster to block extremely restrictive abortion restrictions in a special session called by the governor that would ban abortions after 20 weeks and impose unnecessarily stricter regulations on abortion clinics and doctors who perform abortions, closing all but 5 abortion clinics. To stop House Bill 2, she had to speak continuously until midnight.

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By Texas filibuster rules, she had to stay completely on topic, couldn’t eat, drink, or use the restroom, and not lean on any desk or chair. After three strikes—first for referencing the Planned Parenthood budget, second for having a fellow senator help adjust her back brace, third for referencing the Texas sonogram law—her filibuster was abruptly ended at 10pm. As the Republicans in the chamber hurried to pass the bill, Democrats challenged lieutenant governor David Dewhurst’s ruling that Davis violated Texas filibuster rules, culminating in State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) slamming her male colleagues and a 15-minute “people’s filibuster” where a packed gallery delayed the vote to stop the bill’s passage.

Governor Rick Perry immediately called a second special session to pass the abortion restrictions, and after making its way to the Supreme Court, a 5-4 decision to not interfere with Texas’ abortion bill allowed the state legislature to set the bill into effect. The last rural abortion clinic closed within the past week.

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Why We Need More Ads Like Coca-Cola’s

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Earlier this month, as the Super Bowl went underway, one ad sparked more controversy than any other: Coca-Cola’s. Despite lasting only sixty seconds, a national conversation on the issue of multilingualism and diversity ensued. Disputes broke out on social media. Both conservative and liberal politicians and commentators argued over whether the ad was anti-American or pro-American. Against the will of detractors, Coca-Cola defiantly aired the ad again during the opening of the Sochi Winter Olympics, this time televising the ninety-second version and adding the phrase “E Pluribus Unum” (Latin for “out of many, one”) to the beginning.

So what was it that caused so much controversy? Singing “America the Beautiful” in other languages.

Nine languages were represented in the song: English, Spanish, Tagalog, Mandarin, Hindi, Hebrew, Keres, French and Arabic. All of these languages—with the sole exception of Keres, which is a language native to the Pueblo Indian peoples of New Mexico—were brought to the land we currently call the United States, English included. Really, unless you are one of the small percentage of Americans who claim Native American heritage, at some point your ancestors (or maybe even you or one or more of your parents) immigrated here by foot, boat, or plane.

Diversity has been a particularly important issue recently. The idea of “being American” is so widely debated and open to interpretation that no one can truly pinpoint what it means. How much of your “foreign” culture can you retain—whether it’s Irish, Indonesian, or Iranian—and still consider yourself a part of American culture? Does it mean anything if America’s most common last names go from Smith, Johnson, and Williams to Garcia, Rodriguez, and Martinez?

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