RIP to Elizabeth Hankins (1993 – 2017)
Tell a bit about yourself.
What are your hobbies?
I have cheered for ten years. This will actually be my first year not to be a member of a squad. I cheered all through high school and made the decision to move away from home and cheer in college. I cheered at UWA for four years and served as captain for two of those years. I was a member of Phi Mu Fraternity, and I worked on campus as a student ambassador. I always enjoyed being involved at my school. This past summer I volunteered at a special needs school in the three year old classroom. That was one of my most memorable summers, and it made me confident in my chosen career path.
I have two dogs, Harper Lee and Miss Maudie, that make me happier than I can describe. I have never met a dog that I didn’t like, and snuggling with mine is one of my favorite things to do.
I also love to journal in my Bible. I love to paint pictures to accompany scriptures that mean something to me. This has helped me cope with my adversities, find strength and courage, and truly feel peace. I have grown tremendously in my faith through journaling, and exchanging ideas with in the journaling community is exciting and fun.
What do you plan for the future?
My biggest plan is to just LIVE! I am so thankful just to be here today and to know how it feels to take full, deep breaths. I began culturing a resistant bacteria when I was twelve years old. This particular infection drastically reduces your opportunities for transplant consideration. Honestly, until our family learned that Duke accepts high-risk candidates in some situations, we were running out of options. If it were not for my donor, I would not even be able to think of a “future.” After I move back to Alabama, I plan to return to school in the spring and complete my student teaching; then I will be off to graduate school! I have a special place in my heart for children with Down Syndrome so I definitely see a job working with them and celebrating their exceptionalities. Later during my career, I hope to have the skills to work in a juvenile detention center where I can work with troubled children. I would one day like to adopt a child a special needs child. Living in an old farmhouse with a huge backyard full of rescue dogs sounds just about perfect to me!
What do you think the true meaning of love means to you?
Love means SO many things, but one of the biggest things is acceptance. I don’t think people should have to change or hide who they are in order for people to love them. I know that if my friends had thought of me as “that sick girl” then I probably never would have gotten this far in life. Instead, I was blessed with the most understanding and supportive group of people you’d ever imagine. When I was diagnosed with CF at age two, my family could have made a very different choice about how to raise me. They were absolutely determined that CF might be “part” of my life, but it would never be my whole life. My mother always helped me embrace my life and said yes to as many adventures and experiences as possible. It was a different kind of life than my friends had, but differences are meant to be celebrated. I never tried to hide being sick. It would have been impossible. It came as part of the package, and if people could not “accept” that then they were missing out.
What’s your biggest accomplishment?
My biggest accomplishment would be living my life the way that I wanted to! My life has been full of hospitals, surgeries, pricks, pokes, tears, and struggles, but just because those things had to be part of my life did not mean they had to be all of my life. I have always been a “go get it” kind of girl. If it was something I wanted, I made sure I worked my tail off until I got it. I moved away from home knowing that I would assume more responsibilities than some people would have in their life, but I knew I would not be happy unless I did that for myself so I did. Cystic Fibrosis is such a nasty disease that takes so much away from you. Upon diagnosis, you’re given an “average” life expectancy. Who wants to be “average”? Certainly, not I! So instead of living like I had a death sentence countdown, I decided to live like someone had sprinkled joy on my life. It was my best decision I’ve ever made.
What is your perspective view of the world?
When I read this question, my mind immediately went to a quote from Anne Frank – “In spite of everything, I still believe people are truly good at heart.” I think the world is struggling right now for sure, but I know that hard times don’t last forever. I wish we could all stop pointing fingers at this and that and come together. Our lives are so precious and not everyone realizes that, but when you’ve lain down in bed at night and prayed that you would wake up the next morning, you realize just how important life. My donor lost their life, and I am still living only because of them. How amazing is that? Someone was so selfless to save my life, and they never even knew me.
What is one thing you’ve struggled with?
Something I have struggled with is watching people take their lives for granted. It burns me to my core to hear someone complain about something so small when so many other people are fighting daily for their lives. I know there are people in the world who have it far worse than I do so when I catch myself wanting to complain I shut it down. It was always hard for me to watch someone just simply breathe and know that they didn’t realize how precious a simple inhale and exhale was. There are so many people who will take their last breath today, so we should never take a single one of ours for granted.
What is your daily motivation everyday?
My daily motivation is my donor. I want to live a life that would make him or her proud. I want them to look down on me from heaven and say, “I am glad that girl got my lungs. She is going to change the world.” I want to live my life like my donor is watching. I believe he or she is. We are in this together, and my donor is never far from my thoughts.
What do you enjoy about your life?
I enjoy being able to have such a different outlook on life. I had to grow up faster because what was my version of normal wasn’t everyone else’s version of normal. I have had a lot of people tell me that I am “wise beyond my years”. I see things differently because I know how it feels for life to be so different. I without a doubt have my faults, but I do think I am pretty good about trying to see the best in every situation. If there is a silver lining I will find it, and I will celebrate it.
What is something you could change about the world?
I wish that I could change the way we judge each other rather than love each other. My heart is deeply drawn to people with special needs, and nothing makes me sadder than to see them be mistreated or disrespected. They are amazing, and people who do not take the time to appreciate them are missing out on something wonderful. It costs nothing to be kind; it is heartbreaking that some people don’t realize that. Their smiles alone could light the world, and it’s sickening to know some people are so judgmental that they will never experience that.
11. What’s one thing that interested you about TNWTL MOVEMENT?
The quotes on the Instagram account are one thing that I really like about The TNWTL. I love how a combination of words can completely change, inspire, and comfort you. My mirror, refrigerator, and notebooks are covered with quotes that make me laugh, cry, and most importantly think. Since high school I have been writing down every quote I ever came across that meant something to me. I love that something so small can help someone so much.
12. Do you have any questions for me?
No questions – just a thank you for asking me to be a part of TNWTL Movement!