10 Things To Do Before I Die

November 26, 2010
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Gina stared at the doctor, her mind churned with confusion. How could he say she had cancer? How could she have cancer? She always ate healthy, protected herself from the sun, and exercised regularly. She was a good person, kind and polite. Suddenly the saying, the good die young, meant something.
Gina picked up her bag and headed out to her mother’s car. She climbed into it and waited for her mum to finish finalizing appointments. Her mother arrived and started up the car. Gina smiled at the sound of the familiar engine.
She was not sure what was wrong with her. The doctor had called it something she was sure her German teacher had described in class sometime. Hodgkin’s lymphoma, that unfortunately had been very aggressive and left un-diagnosed for so long it had destroyed her body. Gina passed the rapid swelling as putting on weight but when she had lost weight her mother started to get worried.
She often woke up in the middle of the night, sweating buckets. Her neck was swollen and she was gradually growing weaker. Even though there was a 90% survival rate, she was one of the unfortunate 10%.
When Gina arrived home she slumped down on her bed and stared at the roof. She could still not contemplate what was happening to her. Tomorrow was Monday and she would have to go to school again but she promised herself she would be strong.
There were so many things she wanted to do before she died, so many things. But her time was been cut short by the cancer she had in her neck. Whilst she started at the white washed ceiling she made a list of those things in her head.
Make a new friend
Help kids in Africa
Get over my fear of heights
Shave for a Cure
Be on TV
Work in a soup kitchen
Swim with sharks
Become a Student Leader of some sort
Get an A
Live until the end of the year

The next day Gina pulled on her school dress and packed her things for school. She had a little under a year to live. She would not make it out of high school; by the time she passed away she would only have finished year 7.
She waved goodbye to her mum, slung her bag over her back and headed out to the bus stop. Her friend Maigen was already there when she arrived. Not long after, Spencer, Gina's other friend arrived. They all climbed onto the bus together.
“What's wrong?” Maigen asked.
“Nothing,” Gina replied. She didn’t want to tell her friend and scare her.
“We don’t believe you,” Spencer replied, “You’re never quiet.”
Than was true. Gina could never be quiet. She always had something to say no matter how awkward the silence was. Gina swallowed whilst she thought about whether she should tell them or not. She decided she should because they were her friends.
“Can you guys promise me you will not say anything?” Gina asked.
“Of course,” they replied in unison.
“I have Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a type of cancer. I only have one year to live,” she said.
“You’re kidding, right?” Spencer asked, not sure how to believe what she just said.
Gina shook her head. Maigen stared wide-eyed at her.
“But how?” she whimpered.
“I don’t know,” Gina replied.
The bus stopped at the school and the all got off. It was only a few weeks into the year. Gina was not ready to leave something she had gotten so used to in so little time. But her time had come; it was God’s way of telling her she needed to move onto other things.
Maigen and Gina said goodbye to Spencer and walked to their homeroom together. Mr. Connors hadn’t opened the door yet so they put their bags down and went to join the group of girls they normally hung out with. They were talking about a party that was coming up in a few weekends.
Amanda handed Gina an invitation. She took it and thanked her. She opened it up and read it. Damn it, Gina thought.
The date of the party was the same date as her first check up appointment that she couldn’t miss. Why did this have to happen to her? Why couldn’t she just have a normal life?
“Inside class!” Mr. Connors called.
He held the door open for the class. As Gina walked by he smiled and she managed a smile back. The class took their chairs down from the table and sat down. Mr. Connors called out the role and gave out any notes and pieces of information they needed. Then they all got their books out of their lockers.
“Hey,” Alex said, reaching over Gina to get to his locker.
“Hi,” Gina said.
She ducked so he wouldn’t hit her in the head with his locker. They both walked to their practical period of science together. Soon a few of their mates caught up with them.
“So are you going to Amanda's party?” Alex asked.
“Can’t, I have… family matters,” Gina replied.
“Oh ok. That’s too bad then. I heard it was going to be a blast,” he answered.
“Hmmm,” she sighed.

Gina threw herself onto her bed and spread her homework out around her. She was still trying to get used to the fact that she had books of homework instead of just one sheet a week. She had a math test coming up so she studied hard. She also had a Health assignment due in two days.
One of the things on her list was to get an A and she was going to work hard to get it crossed off. Another thing was to work in a soup kitchen. The Social Justice Leader had given her an application form. Gina would get it signed when her mother returned home.
Soon after that Gina heard her mothers car pull up in the drive. She rushed outside to greet her. Her mother held bags of food. Gina took some at helped her inside.
“How are you feeling?” Her mother asked.
“Fine,” Gina replied. Her mother nodded and started unpacking the groceries.

Gina woke up sweating bullets. Her pyjamas were soaked through and her hair was matted to her forehead. Her heart was racing inside her chest and her breathing was heavy. She knew this was the cancer talking. Her head throbbed and her stomach was doing frantic back flips inside her, making her feel sick.
Gina dropped her legs over the bed and put her feet in her slippers. She stood up slowly and headed out into the hallway. She went into the bathroom and knelt down beside the toilet. She held back her hair just before she threw up.
The cancer was making Gina weaker every moment. When she thought she was done she stood up and went to the kitchen, got a bowl and headed back to bed. She slumped down and hoped the queasiness would pass soon. Slowly she drifted back to sleep.

“Congratulations Gina you are a Homeroom Captain!” Mr. Connors said with over-enthusiasm.
Gina stood up and walked over to him. She shook his hand and he pinned the badge to her uniform. Two things crossed of the list, she thought.
6. Work in a Soup kitchen
8. Become a student leader
She sat back down in her seat and she could feel her face going red as everyone clapped. Maigen slapped her on the back in acknowledgment. Gina couldn’t help but smile and thank everyone for voting for her. Not long after that Mr. Connors left and was replaced by Mrs. Mason, our health teacher.
She read out the role and after she said our names, told us our results for our assignments.
“Chloe Pierce, B+. Alex Sarkovski, D-,” she said.
Alex groaned behind Gina. She stifled a laugh; determine not to embarrass her friend anymore that he needed to be. Eventually Gina’s name was read out.
“Gina Thomas, A,” Mrs. Mason finished.
Gina tried to suppress an excited scream. She was on a role here. Three things on her list knocked of in one go. She was sure she could cross everything off.
9. Get an A

The holidays couldn’t have arrived fast enough. Even though she was used to year 7 now, it was tiring her out with her cancer. For the holidays her mother had booked a trip for two to Africa.
Gina’s mother was a photographer and was sent to all different locations to take photos. Her next job was to photograph kids in a small town in Africa. Gina’s dream was to become a journalist. So she was given the job of writing about their trip and about the life of the children in her mother’s pictures. Soon Gina would be able to cross another thing off her list.
The taxi ride to the airport was not very long. They arrived there with about two hours until their plane departed so they sat down to wait. Gina spent most of her time gazing out the huge window, watching the planes take off and touch down. Soon it was time for them to board their plane. Gina was afraid of heights and was very hesitant to get on board.
The mother and daughter’s seats were in the middle of the plane. Gina sat on the window side and looked out at the tarmac. She held her breath as the plane lifted off into the air. She stared out the window and watched as the people became smaller and smaller. She laughed at the fact that they look like ants.
Gina yawned and stretched her arms. Then she lent back in her seat and fell asleep.

Gina and her mother hopped off the plane and jumped into another taxi. It dropped them off at their motel. It wasn’t really what you would call a motel; it was more like a run down inn in the middle of a town full of poverty.
Gina hauled her luggage out of the car and wheeled it up to the front door of the motel. Her mother opened it and led them to their room. It was not as run down as the outside but it didn’t have five star qualities either. It was middle class and Gina was fine with that. In a town like this, you were lucky to have a bed at all.
Gina changed into her pyjamas and climbed into the straw bed. She hoped her cancer wouldn’t have her waking up sweating so far away from home and any qualified doctors.

Gina woke up the next morning surprised she wasn’t soaked. She leapt out of bed and had a shower. The shower wasn’t very good quality and it felt like she was getting dirtier instead of cleaner. She put on a pair of shorts and a shirt preparing for the hot weather. She pulled on her leather-hiking boots for the rough terrain.
Gina and her mother left the motel together and walked the long trail to the town square. Gina had her notebook and her mother had her camera. On the way up Gina borrowed her mother’s camera and took photos of the beautiful forest and the mountain silhouette.
When they reached the town square there where lots of little children everywhere. When they saw Gina and her mother they rushed up and chanted things in African, things that Gina could not understand. A boy about her age called the little kids back from where he was leaning against a tin shed. They all listened reluctantly and went back to what they were doing.
He had long dark scruffy hair and dark skin. His black eyes were kind. He came up to Gina and her mother and greeted them.
“Hello, my name is Daniel,” he said, “I am one of few who can speak English here so if you need any assistance I am at your service.”
Daniel was very polite and offered to show Gina around while her mother took pictures and talked to some other natives. He took Gina down to a creek, which was their only source of water. He taught her how they caught fish, grew their food and worked in the fields. It was very different to the way Gina was used to back in Australia.
She was very glad she had had this opportunity. Gina told Daniel about her cancer and how she did not have long to live, about her list and about life back in Australia. He stared wide-eyed as she told him about a computer and play station.
Gina decided that she would interview him for part of her story about Africa. He agreed and she asked him all sorts of questions about his life with the people and places of Africa.
After that they went back to the heart of the town so Gina could meet some more locals. Daniel introduced her to some of the adults and some children. He also introduced her to his family. His mother, Greta stayed at home with her six kids. His father, Solomon, was a farmer. He had four sisters, Brianna, Violet, Julia and Christine and one brother, Basil.

On Gina’s last day in Africa she went to the market. She was going to by a present for each of the people in the town she had called home for the last two weeks. She bought the smaller children a soft toy each and the elder ones a writing book and a packet of pencils and felt tip markers. On the inside of Daniels book she wrote:
You have been a very special kind friend to me for the last two weeks. Soon I will be leaving this world, but I will promise that I will always be thinking of you. Maybe I will see you again in heaven. I will never forget your kindness.
Lots of love, Gina
Gina carried the books back to the town. She made every person line up so she could hand out their gifts. Each person had a huge smile on their face when they received it and did not stop thanking her. When she reached Daniel she handed it to him and gave him a big hug.
“I will never forget you,” she whispered in his ear.

When Gina arrived home from Africa she realized she’d had crossed off many things from her list.
Make a new friend
Help kids in Africa
Get over my fear of heights
She was going on her and Excursion with the school in a few weeks. It was to the Melbourne Aquarium. There she was confident that she would swim with a shark, but for now she was concentrating on the current activity.
Gina was sitting in a chair in the hall in front of the whole school. Another thing on her list was to shave her head for a cure. So that’s what she was doing. The cool metal of the razor was slowly shaving off her long golden hair. It didn’t worry her though. She wasn’t really going to need it when she died. And she took comfort in the fact that she would be helping someone else.
4. Shave for a cure
A few moments later she stood up and went to watch another girl get her head shaved. As she walked over there she noticed some long black cords that ended at a camera. She noticed that everyone that got his or her head shaved was being filmed.
“Is that video just a keepsake,” she asked Alex, who looked in shock at Gina’s sudden short do.
“Nah,” he replied, “It’s going on the news tonight. You will get to see the funny face you pulled at your ‘do’.”
That was like music to her ears. Gina was sure she would cross everything off now.
5. Be on TV

“Go, Go, Go, Go,” Gina’s classmates chanted.
She held breath and dropped into the warm water of the shark tank. She still couldn’t believe she was doing this. A shark swam right past her face. She held back a scream, afraid that she would scare it and it would attack her.
As another one swam by Gina put her hand out and patted the smooth back of it. The instructor told her to take of the dorsal fin and swim along on top of it. She did as she was told and lightly grasped it. As the shark swam it took Gina along behind in pulling her around the length of the tank.
She let go and pulled herself up out of the water. Maigen gave her a high five as she came up. Gina went to the change rooms and got out of the wetsuit. Her heart was racing with the major adrenaline rush she had.
7. Swim with sharks

Gina was sent to the Royal Children’s Hospital. She had just under a month to live. She was weaker now, weaker than she had ever been in her whole life. Her mother came to visit her every night after work. During the day she mostly slept but when she was awake she wasn’t allowed out of bed. So in the few hours she was awake she would read or write stories about fantasy worlds where death was not possible.
For Gina to achieve her last goal, she would have to last another month before the end of the year. She was going to try hard and reach it. It would not matter that she was dying if she could achieve everything she wanted to. It was not so bad for her but she worried about her mother.
Gina’s mother had five miscarriages before Gina was born and when Gina was only three her father walked out on them. So Gina and her mother stuck to each other and were inseparable, that was until Gina was diagnosed.
Gina rolled over on her side in the uncomfortable hospital bed. She decided she would write a letter to her mother. On it she would write something about how much she loved her mother and about how she needed to be strong and move on.

Gina’s mother came up the elevator to Gina’s floor. She made her way to where Gina’s room was. As she walked in she found a nurse making the bed. The mother was confused.
“Where is Gina?” she asked.
“Ms. Thomas, Gina passed away a few hours ago,” the nurse replied.
Ms. Thomas choked on her words. Her face streamed with tears and her bottom lip trembled. The nurse came up to her and hugged her. She buried her head in the nurse’s shoulder and let the tears come down.
“I will leave you to pack up her stuff,” the nurse said and left the room.
Ms. Thomas leant under the bed and pulled out Gina’s old suitcase. She opened the dresser draw and pulled her stuff out and put it in. amongst the clothing and books she found an envelope. Dear Mum was written on the front of it. The mother opened it up and took out a letter. She read it.
Dear Mum,

If you are reading this it is because I have passed away. I guess you are crying now, but I want you to be strong. I am not afraid of what happened to me, and you shouldn’t be either. Promise me that you will not spend the rest of your life thinking why me. Take it as a gift where you will have the chance to start fresh.
Promise me that you will move on, find a new husband, and have lots and lots of kids. Promise me that you will spread my story of how strong I was, how strong you were.
I thank you for all the things you did in my life. Like the time you taught me how to ride a bike on two wheels, or the time I lost my first tooth. I thank you for just being there to see me grow up and change because I don’t know how I would have done it without you.
Even though you may miss me a lot, you will never miss me as much as I will miss you. Maybe we will meet in heaven when you are old and wrinkly and have lived a
long happy life. Please tell all of my friends that I loved them, and I hope they live long lives too.
And don’t cry Mum; move on as fast as possible. Don’t wallow in pain and forget about the important things. Keep up with the photography; keep in touch with Daniel and his family and most of all LIVE!
Don’t let my death change the way things were. Maybe have a girls night with your friends, enjoy the spa or something, whatever it is you like to do.
I love you mum, Gina.

Gina’s mother looked at the other piece of paper. It had a list on it. Everything was crossed off, all except for one thing.
Make a new friend
Help kids in Africa
Get over my fear of heights
Shave for a Cure
Be on TV
Work in a soup kitchen
Swim with sharks
Become a Student Leader of some sort
Get an A
Live until the end of the year

She folded up the paper and held it to her heart. Her tears fell down like a rapid waterfall. She was going to do everything Gina had said. She was going to be strong like her daughter.
Her daughter’s cancer had taught her many things. Like not to take things for granted but most of all live while you can and love what you have.

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