Brave, bald, beautiful, and bewildered
She was always quiet. In seventh grade STAR (homeroom), she used to cover her ears when my more robust students arrived loud and proud. . I had another student in that class who bellowed out an enthusiastic “good morning everyone” at the start of every day with a melodious Italian accent. My quiet friend wasn’t having any of that. She got up one day and slammed the door in her face. My little fountain of morning joy just laughed it off, not taking offense.
Fast forward 5 years and I am having a BBQ at my home for that graduating senior class. Both girls are there, along with other students. One person sat quietly apart from the others as they shared college and other post high school plans. Who sought her out and engaged her? Yes, Miss fountain of joy. They were all moving on now to carve out the beginning of their adult lives. My quiet friend was a bit lost, unsure of direction and of herself
She started working at Dunkin Donuts, a fun place for me to keep in touch. As the years passed I saw her starting to come into her own, but yet always putting others first and not making demands on life, being satisfied and appreciative of whatever came her way, and not demanding more.
So it was in that same vein, that when she started to feel some pain, she hid it from her family, not wanting to inconvenience anyone. They noticed. They took her to the ER and she was diagnosed with a sprained ankle and sent on her way. But it didn’t get better. Then doctors decided she had a fracture and put a cast on it, but still not better. Finally a nurse said, “I have never seen anything quite like this, I think you need to see a specialist.” It turned out that her ankle hurt because it had become home to a tumor. This was the beginning of the current dance with cancer and daunting journey to address it. After an MRI, she was diagnosed with bone cancer.
She is now doing something remarkable. She is using her natural gifts to deal with all the physical and emotional challenges. She is a talented artist and has become an amazing writer, in her time of greatest need. I flash back to her middle school resistance to write at first, and then how she began to open up through her writing. She asked me to edit her recent writing. Reading the personal journal entry of a 22 year old battling cancer is a different kind of editing. You edit with your heart spinning summersaults, while your brain tries to stay above the sea level of tears you are holding back. If she can be strong, so can you.
I suggest to her that perhaps she should create a graphic novel based on her journey. She had just started studying graphic design. She designed the figure above, and others as well. Paired with her writing, this would be powerful!
The silver thread, that cancer has wrapped around my girl, is that she has come into her own. Not shy anymore, sure of herself, sure of how much she wants to live, and finally aware of how much she means to others. The power of love to build a person is monumental. Let’s hope and pray that it also helps heal for love conquers all, and God takes care of the rest.