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The first time it happened, it didn't really affect me. I only knew him as the new kid that sat alone at a nearby science table, rude to anyone who tried to talk to him. I'd see him talking to other players in the hall, so I knew he was a hockey player. Other than that I knew nothing about him, he was just another face in a sea of people.
After a while he stopped coming to class. I'm sorry to say that, honestly, I didn't even notice he was gone. I wonder how long it would've taken for me to clue in, had it not been brought to my attention by our science teacher's announcement.
Some time around Christmas, after we had finished our work for the day, the teacher stood up and informed the class that one of its' members had been away for a while, that he was very sick. We were to make a card and all sign it, to show that we cared and to show that we supported his family through this tough holiday season.
Thinking back, I probably wrote some clichéd, impersonal remark in that card. And why wouldn't I? It's not like I knew the boy. To me he was just another unfortunate being, someone to feel sorry for but not worth dwelling over. Cancer is common enough, it's not that big a deal right?
He was one of the lucky ones.
He is one of my best friends now; he's always there for me, always there to make me laugh and to put a smile on my face. We've been through so much and have so many great memories together. I love him like he's my own brother. Sometimes I wonder what my life would've been like today had his cancer won the battle...
The funny thing about life is that, in the end, it's not really funny at all. Yes it's true that you have great times full of laughter, but when it comes right down to it everyone leaves you, everybody's time comes. A wise man once said that life isn't fair, and my friend was living proof. His cancer came back.
I still remember the day when I first heard the news. It had been a wonderful day, full of fun and laughter. I was laying in my bed reading a book when my mom came in quietly and sat down beside me. I took one look at her face and my heart instantly dropped. I had seen this look before and usually it was followed by news like “Baby I'm sorry, but our dog Moe got hit by a car today” or “Grandma passed away last night honey, now she's one of the stars”. This time was no different, if possible it was even worse. She told me his dad just called, he was in relapse and was back in the hospital.
With those words, my whole world was turned upside down. Everything went out of focus and my breathing all but ceased, nothing could compare to how sick I felt at that moment. The closest thing I can liken it to is drowning. Drowning in a cool, dark pool of despair. “This is a dream, this is a joke, it can't be real..” were the thoughts going through my mind, trying to soothe my aching heart.
As the weeks went by, there was no improvement. Slowly I watched as he withered away. Each round of chemo left him weaker and more fragile. The deep circles under his eyes, the bruises, his red hair long since fallen out... It killed me inside to see what was becoming of him, to see his life slowly depleting, all his dreams ebbing away like the ocean's tide. He wanted to be a star, he wanted people to scream his name as he flashed across the ice to score the winning goal. Now, he barely has enough energy to move.
I would visit him everyday, taking a moment to compose myself before entering the room so as to keep a brave face. The least I could do was keep his hopes up, for in every other respect I was as helpless as he. The difference between us is that he was a fighter, he never lost that fire in his eyes. That was one of the things that I loved the most about him: here I was trying desperately to stay afloat when his hope was almost tangible, like rays of sunshine bursting through the dark storm clouds that was his cancer.
But hope can only get you so far. Eventually he took a turn for the worst. Everyone knew that it was coming to an end, even him. They stopped the treatment and decided just to let him live out the rest of his time in peace. Gone were the days when we ran with him on our shoulders like a king, running the Survivor lap at Relay for Life, celebrating his second chance at life. That chance was a fraud.
Is a second chance all a person gets? Why did it have to be him when he had already gone though so much? Didn't he deserve to live just as much as anyone else?
As a wise man once said, life isn't fair...
He never made it to the NHL, but he did become a star. Just like my grandma, he shines down on me from above. I like to think that he's smiling, that the twinkle never left his eyes, and that that's what I'm seeing when I look into the night sky. That way, he will be with me forever...
See, that alternative is unbearable. Just thinking about it makes me want to cry; I don't know if I'd be able to cope if it happened for real. There will always be that possibility though, remission doesn't always last forever, but for now I thank my lucky stars that he is alive. He has a new lease on life and, hopefully soon, he'll be renting to own.