Today we welcome guest blogger, Michele Mitchell, a MyLifeLine.org board member who shares the story of her young son’s brain cancer journey, including some of his own reflections on the experience.
Every Thankful Thursday is an opportunity to reflect on feelings of thankfulness and meaningfulness. However, nine years ago the idea of even trying to pretend to be thankful would have been next to impossible. Now, I know an even deeper meaning of being truly thankful as a result of many experiences my son and I shared as we adventured through the land of pediatric cancer. Nine years ago, my only son was diagnosed with a highly malignant brain tumor two weeks before kindergarten. As most families were preparing themselves for new adventures at school, we were preparing ourselves for the storm of a lifetime that consisted of brain surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and countless doctor appointments. However, it was amidst this very storm that we have learned to understand and feel the true meaning of being thankful. There is no better way to capture this understanding than to share some insights from some of my son’s writings.
When Sean was in the 5th grade, he was asked to write about an event that changed is life. His story was titled “Living Life to Its Maximum”. He started his story by sharing his favorite quote by Babe Ruth: “Hero’s get remembered, but legends never die”. Then, he proceeded by stating….”Shortly, after moving to Colorado a tornado came sweeping into my life: This tornado was called brain cancer. The story does not end there. Now, five and half years later, my life is full of memories and surprises. I hope you enjoy this journey of memories and learn that all parts of life are never forgotten. No one said life was ever easy, but hard times help us embrace and appreciate our friends and family around us. Continue on, this story waits for no one. In August of 2004, I was diagnosed with brain cancer. I was very scared, confused, and felt tired a lot. Both of my parents were with me during this time. I don’t know how I could have got through without them. They both still help me deal with the effects of the treatment and are very patient and understanding. The storms of life can be very hard. This storm changed everything. For a few weeks I had been feeling very tired and dizzy. My stomach hurt all the time and I could not think clearly. After my brain surgery, I felt somewhat better at least for a while. Then, radiation started and I felt horrible. I went from 54 pounds to 39 pounds in one month. Then, chemotherapy started: The only word to describe this is “horrible”. I felt light headed, tired, nausea, and my body hurt all of the time. Through all of this, I learned to never give up when things seem impossible. I learned that God has a plan for my life and he can turn even the most impossible situations around. My life since then has been better. My memories of childhood will also be good. My trip to Disney World from the Make a Wish Foundation was great. I will never forget the times my mom and I had there. I will remember the time I have spent with my dad and how much time he spent with me and loved me. I know how much my mom and dad love me, and how much God must love me too. Those will be the things I think about most.
I have also learned that I never let a great thing pass. I like to eat so much chocolate ice cream. I will always remember my cats, they are so cute. I will remember learning about owls; my dad says I look like one. I will always have good memories of my parent’s houses. I like to think about the first time I beat my dad at chess. I like the peaceful quiet nights at my dad’s house playing video games. I will remember how my mom was so caring for even the little things. I will always remember my great room at my mom’s and all the good meals. My friends at school will always be a special part of my heart. I will never forget them. Holidays are going to be great memories too. Great food and family at Thanksgiving, and the great days we had at Christmas. I will always remember how many people really cared for me and made me feel loved.
I look forward to living a life with a great family and a great passion just for living. My early years have taught me to live every day, I mean really live. I will work as hard as I must to achieve my goals. Knowing that I have God on my side, I will never fear. I know God has a purpose for me because he saved me from cancer. As I get older, I know I will still feel young in my heart. I want to continue to grow and learn. I am excited to see the world and experience life in every way. I will always be honest and treat people well. I look forward to having my own family and being a great dad just like my dad. I will have a good relationship with my children. I will use my hard times to teach them great lessons. I will teach them that God hears your prayers and it does change things. I am so thankful for a chance at a great future. I will make the most of this life and never waste it. I will always be thankful for my friends, my family, and the lessons learned from this storm.”
Now at the age of 14 years old, my son is still teaching us about the true reasons to be thankful for every minute of every day. Oh how I wish mylifeline.org had existed nine years ago; however, I am so thankful that today this organization can help so many families stay connected and feel the power of support as my son so beautifully articulated above: “I don’t know how I could have got through without them”.