Four years ago, my best friend’s son died peacefully in his father’s arms, and we were all forever changed. He was 12 years old. The last words that this sweet hilarious boy said to me were, “I love you.” I was loading my car with my one year old son, my husband, and a trunk full of suitcases to embark on a journey to a new province. It was hard to leave our friends behind. These friends had become more than buddies to us. They were our family. We love them. Harder still that we knew this would be the last time we would see our young friend. One month later, he was gone.
Although I will never understand the profound loss that this brave boy’s parents experienced (and continue to experience), this affected me more than anything else that has happened to me thus far in my life. It has left me scared, anxious, and determined. I am a more scared and anxious person because I know that this can happen. Children can get sick. Children can die. My precious boys could be taken from me. When my boys feel a pain that I cannot explain or are more tired than usual, my mind thinks of cancer, my heart beats faster, and I am scared. This is a passing feeling, but it is there. It is so deep in my understanding that I don’t think it will ever go away. That’s okay though. Facing mortality has also made me determined. My life has become more purposeful. Growing old is a gift, having children is a gift, being in love is a gift, living in this beautiful world is a gift, and any difficulties we encounter are worth it. I like to say that I have been on a journey of turning my pessimist heart into an optimist.
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. It is a difficult thing to think about, but it is important that people’s stories are remembered. My wish is that we someday find a cure. For now, we can raise money, we can share our experiences, we can support each other. Most people will be affected by cancer at some point in their lives. Let us not be defeated. I will never forget my young friend, and I will be forever grateful for his gifts to me and anyone who knew him.
I wrote this piece to be part of "Stories of Those Affected by Cancer" exhibit hosted by the Fredericton Region Museum. If you are in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, right now,
a) you are one of the luckiest people in the world
b) go see this exhibit
c) submit your story at Stories of Those Affected by Cancer
d) while you are at the exhibit, say, "hi" to Morgan Dugdale for me- she is a super awesome person