Stars of Hope

October 17, 2009
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I hit the end button on my phone, ending the call, and threw the phone against the wall facing me. I shut my eyes, pushing back all emotion. Tears were straining to get out, but I held them at bay. My hands were curled into fists, nothing could pry them loose. I sat into the corner of where my bed hit the wall with my arms hugging myself closer, squeezing myself tighter and tighter with every dry sob that escaped from my closed lips. I couldn’t show my weakness. One of us had to be strong.

On the 1st of April, Jake Brennan was diagnosed with colon cancer. How this happened, no one knew. We just knew what it meant. We saw the signs, but not a single one of us would’ve guessed something much greater and terrible was developing.
Jake always acted strong. He tried to act like he just had a cold or the seasonal sickness of stomach aches, but I saw through his mask of lies. I worried relentlessly, though I never expressed it. Jake would not listen when I told him to find some more help. Doctors gave up on him and only gave him drug after drug as to hint that he was a lost cause. I watched him progress worse and worse over the years; a simple cough to fits of coughs, then long absences from school. He looked like death washed over him whenever I got the chance to see him, which was not ever. If Jake only knew how much he meant to me. I remembered back to those days when everything seemed normal and we would have long talks about nothing in particular; from how our day went to whether black was a shade or color. Those days are now long gone, only a distant memory.
The week before Jake was diagnosed, we were hanging out near the old theater that everyone thought was haunted. We just came out of a recently released film and were reciting our favorite scenes. Jake had one of those rare days when he felt well enough to hang out with his friends again. We laughed and goofed off and I forgot all the drama of being a teenager and felt like a child with her best friends. It was dark and we walked along the paths that lead to a small children’s park. “Race you to the swings!” I yelled to my friends and sprinted to the pair of plastic swings. I sat down in the tiny swing and swung my legs to lift myself into the air. Jake and two others sat on a bench, talking and looking at me at the same time. I miss that day more than any other because I know it can never be repeated.
I received a call from Jake’s mother on May 31st. She explained to me that Jake collapsed during breakfast that morning and he was immediately taken to the hospital. Fear surged through me like electricity running through wires. I couldn’t remember much of the trip to the hospital; all I remembered was the way Jake looked. The one who everyone thought was invincible was laying in a hospital bed with different wires and tubes hooked up to him. The heart monitor showed slow, but steady heart beats. The sight still chills me to this day. He was pale and thin, definitely something was wrong. I remember feeling guilty for not recognizing the signs earlier and taking action. Of course I saw them before, but Jake’s words always pushed me away. I left the hospital feeling hopeless and angry at myself.
Jake was released from the hospital a month after he was diagnosed. He showed signs of improvement, although no one could improve from colon cancer. But all that mattered to me was that he was allowed back home again. I made him promise to keep me posted every night with his condition; I was too paranoid to leave him in peace. He called me every night without needing me to remind him. Just hearing his voice gave me hope for the upcoming future, maybe he can be cured; maybe he’ll receive a chance to live. But on this night, with that phone call, all of my hopes were crushed with only one statement, “I’m going back.”
How could this have happened? I think as I hug my knees even closer to my body. I lift my head up from my knees and look at the photograph of Jake and me at the beach during the summer. We were both in swim suits; Jake held me on top of his shoulders and I had a towel wrapped around my torso. We laughed at some now forgotten joke.
I crawled to the end of my bed, picked up the photo and walked outside onto my balcony. I sat into the swinging hammock, still holding the picture. I closed my eyes lightly and imagined myself back at the beach, everything so peaceful and normal. I opened my eyes and I held the photo tighter. Even if one of us was weak, the other would stay strong. I would be that strong one.
A cool breeze blew around me and I saw the stars shining above me in the heavens. There was still hope and I would not give up that hope if it meant a new life for Jake.

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