Finding a Happy Place
Marissa Lopez had one of the greatest struggles in her life over the past year, but pushed through and now finds herself on the cusp of being crowned Homecoming Queen
Marissa Lopez is happy where she is right now.
That might sound like an easy thing to say, but it’s not. How she got to this point, the fight she had to put up, has made this happy place hard won and completely satisfying.
To look at her is to see someone that looks perfectly put together to be a Homecoming Queen. She has an easy, bright smile, a popular presence; she is active in ASB, was a cheerleader, and is a strong student. On the outside, everything about her is a perfect resume.
Inside, however, the struggle is real.
A year ago, Marissa was diagnosed with a tumor in her pituitary gland. The growth was not cancerous, but it was the source of aggravating migraine headaches and chronic fatigue, which resulted in a lot of missed school. She spent tons of time in doctor’s offices, having blood drawn—“like 12 vials of blood”—and getting MRIs, all to make sure that the tumor did not grow.
The shock of having such a challenging medical issue made Marissa feel uncomfortable about sharing. “It was my first year going through it,” she said. “So I didn’t really want anyone to know what was happening with me.”
So she kept her health concerns a secret and put on a tough face “because I’m a strong individual and I can handle it.” Meanwhile, she wasn’t eating and was exhausted all the time.
Still, she fought, and she found her strength.
“My parents always taught me to never give up and always keep pushing,” Marissa said. “No matter what happens in life. So I’ve always kept that in mind. I always just fight for everything I want. I always like to go above and beyond with things.”
Now that the tumor hasn’t grown in the past year, Marissa is figuring out how to live with it. She is more involved than ever in school. This year she is involved with ASB, National Honors Society, and the HEAL Pathway. There is no quit in her.
And she is also adventurous. During the past summer, she and her family traveled to Rosarito, Mexico and she got out of her comfort zone exploring an unfamiliar place. “I was scared to leave the country,” she said. She embraced the fear, though, and as she ventured into the city her heart was touched by the day-to-day struggles of the local community there, especially the children, who she said “were all sad.”
That adventurous spirit has Marissa now running for Homecoming Queen. There is certainly precedent for this. She was the junior class Princess last year.
And this year, now that she has become more open about her struggles, she feels more like herself. She is a “very positive person” who wants to “be friends with everyone . . . When I was in cheer I didn’t really get to talk to anyone because I was, like, on the cheer team. So, I wasn’t like myself. But now I feel like myself and get to be friends with everybody.”
It’s quite the happy place.