On Thurs. March 24 students and faculty gathered at Izzy’s to listen to senior Lindsey Schrock’s honors thesis presentation titled “The Story Behind the Name”. The presentation included three students, Sydney Gregory, Emily Mason and Sami Hood, who shared their experiences, struggles, and strengths.
Schrock was inspired in her family communication class when everyone shared personal stories about themselves. She found these stories interesting and encouraging, and wanted to share them with the rest of the Marietta College community.
“I’ve been looking into what sharing your story does for both you and other people who are listening,” Schrock said.
Sydney Gregory, a junior at Marietta College, was the first to present. Gregory was born with VACTERL syndrome, which affects 1 out of 10,000 to 40,000 live births. Gregory was born 6 weeks early, and went through over 50 surgeries when she was an infant.
“I’ve never known what it’s like to be quote unquote normal,” Gregory said.
Gregory recalls a trip to the Ohio State fair with her dad when she was 16. They were there to see Selena Gomez perform, but on the way they stumbled upon a freak show. Gregory was not too keen on the idea of going in, but her dad insisted.
One of the workers came up to her and told her that she could go in for free. Gregory recalls the worker telling her that there was a guy in the show that they called “Fish” and he had arms like hers’.
Gregory recalled saying, “No sir, I don’t have fish fins.”
After this, Gregory’s dad insisted they still go in, so they did. Gregory remembers thinking that this was the first time she saw someone like her. After the show, it was hard for her to enjoy the rest of the day at the fair.
“For the first time in my life, I was ashamed of my body,” she said.
Gregory is determined to perform up to her capabilities, not her disabilities. She wants to be a motivational speaker after she graduates from college.
“I think it is important to educate people about how the outside is just the cover, you have to dig really deep to know the person,” Gregory said.
The next presenter, senior Emily Mason, was sexually assaulted in high school. Mason was friends with a boy who initiated a sexual relationship, but she turned it down. The boy never pushed, until one day after school when Mason had a bad day and the boy wanted to come over.
“I tried to convince myself it was fine,” she said.
The boy ended up coming over and proceeded to sexually assault Mason. She convinced herself not to tell anyone but herself. Mason at the time was in a play at school about sexual assault, and one day after practice she blurted out the truth to a friend.
“Seeing her reaction, I realized it wasn’t okay,” Mason said.
Mason waited before filing a report with the police because she did not feel ready. When she did file a report, she waited for weeks, but the police never returned her call. Finally, they called back and said that because she did not have any evidence, the prosecutor would not take her case.
Mason has a message for everyone: “I want you to know that it takes a long time. Don’t assume someone is okay because they seem okay.”
The final presenter, senior Sami Hood, recalls that Sept. 13, 2014 was the freakiest Friday of her life. She was coughing and noticed that the bronchitis medicine she had been prescribed was not helping, so she went back to the doctor and was diagnosed with a sinus infection.
“I woke up, collapsed on the ground, and couldn’t breathe,” Hood said.
Two of Hood’s roommates carried her to the health center on campus. The PA determined he could not hear her breathing on the left side of her body sent her to the hospital for chest X-rays.
Hood was later told that she had a large tumor in her chest, which is why she could not breathe. Hood was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. She went home to Pittsburgh and started chemotherapy.
Despite everything, she retained a positive outlook.
“I think you can find something good in every single day,” Hood said.
Hood never let herself loose a positive attitude because she learned that attitude is half the battle. On Feb. 6, 2014, Hood’s oncologist told her that her cancer was gone.
“It will, hands down, always be the best day of my life,” Hood said. She is now two years in remission.
Professor Jeff Walker attended the event. He has both Gregory and Hood in his communication ethics class this semester, so he knows a little bit about their stories, but gained a new respect for the narrative, the people telling the stories, and the people hearing them.
“The sharing of one’s personal story binds us together despite radical differences. Narratives work to create empathy between people,” Walker said.
Through their testimonies he understood his own life in new ways and was very impacted by the event.
“It was more than respect for their courage, though that was certainly the case. It was the way that ‘The Story Behind the Name’ now included my name as well. I hope others found themselves with the same sense of empowerment,” he said.