Face of Bravery

July 3, 2013
“My parents are freaking out… but I’m fine.” These are the words of my best friend just after being told she had a brain tumor. The tumor began growing off of the Schwann cells of her facial and hearing nerve, inside of the innermost ear and brain. The tumor was slowly growing into her brain stem. Upon hearing the news I was utterly shocked, terrified, and fascinated by the science of it all at once. According to her, the tumor was benign but the doctor warned of a probable malignancy. At first I told no one about Kathryn’s predicament, not even my parents. Why would I? How could I? I was having trouble believing it myself. My best friend, my partner in crime did not, could not have a tumor. Benign or not, I had heard countless horrors stories of brain tumors and I was scared out of my mind. I did not cry when she told me, I know I needed to be calm and collected for her sake (and maybe even mine).

As I sit here and recall those dark times, I realize now that Kathryn did not need any help being calm and collected. She told me about her situation without a tear, underwent a total of three intense surgeries to clear her head of that horrid threat, and still found time to succeed academically (she was ranked number three in our class at the end of the year). At first I was dumbfounded at her apparent indifference towards the whole situation and it was not until later that she told me of countless nights she spent crying herself to sleep, hating her new half-paralyzed face that resulted from surgery, hating her new crooked smile, hating the pain that she was going through. I even doubted myself as a friend for some time, wondering if I was giving adequate support to such a strong young adult. A year later, she took me aside and thanked me for all that I have done for her over the years. The moment moved me in many ways, knowing that I had made such a huge difference in one’s life.

Now I feel as if I should be thanking Kathryn. Thanking her for teaching me what genuine strength and courage are, for showing me the importance of supporting others, of giving back to the community that has fostered my growth. She has inspired me to join a Special Olympics swim team at the local town hall, to read to elementary school children and see the light of bright futures in their eyes, to strive in all of my academic and extracurricular endeavors, and to appreciate those wonderful people that surround us in our everyday life, those people that make all the difference. There is no doubt that Kathryn, who is today alive and well, has made all the difference, and I am truly grateful that she is here for me to tell her just that.

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