I was in eighth grade. It was a beautiful May morning. I was in second period, Social Studies. I sat in a group of people who were all my friends. Some I met just that year, but one I had known for what felt like forever.
He was a great kid (and still is). I think of him as less of a friend, and more like a brother I never got the privilege of having. His name is Nick, and his family had become my second family. One of his family members that I was closest with was his mother. Karen. God, how I loved her and her family, just as my own.
On this May morning in Social Studies, I heard something weird. Nick was at his desk, whispering for me to come over there. Because I knew him so well, I thought, Oh, he’s just going to burp in my ear or something, and I believe I spoke something similar for him to hear aloud.
I was wrong – so very wrong.
His tone changed. His face tensed up. He wasn’t going to burp in my ear. He demanded that I came over to his desk. I did, and when he said to come closer, I got scared. I held my breath. He slowly and quietly uttered the words:
“My mom has cancer.”
It hit me like a rock. I could barely get the words together enough to ask two questions: 1) What kind? 2) How bad? He gave me the best description he could. He said, “It’s bad… breast cancer…” and that was about the extent of the conversation, besides my closing statement: “I am praying for you – give her my best.”
I walked, with the wind taken from my sails, back to my desk, sat down, and began to think – trying to hold down the tears. I wanted to cry so very, VERY badly. I felt helpless. I couldn’t do anything at that moment, and that broke my heart.
I went home that day, right after school, and immediately got to work on making a card for her. I knew a simple “folded-a-paper-in-half” card was not going to suffice. I whipped out my giant drawing pad, and sketched the first word that came to mind: “HOPE.” I went on to fill the large paper with words that struck me as positive and encouraging. Each word was written in pink, the color for breast cancer.
The very next day, I brought it back to school, rolled up, with a love-filled long letter, and handed it to Nick. All I said was, “Give this to your mom.” Then I left him my phone number, so he could message me to tell me if she liked it or whatever. That night, my phone goes off with a two-paged message from him, telling me all about how much she loved it, and how dear she kept it to her heart.
I bawled my eyes out. Reading that message made me feel so good – so glad that I was able to bring her even the smallest ray of sunshine during such a dark time in her life. I never had a feeling like I did there. Over the coming weeks, I talked a lot with Nick, and his cousin, so that I could get updates.
One Saturday morning, I got a text with a picture attachment. The message read: “Here’s my mom going in for her first surgery. She’s holding your sign. She loves it. She takes it everywhere.” Yet again, I started crying. Then another message came through a few hours later.
That message also had a picture attachment. The words below it read: “Here’s my mom – out of surgery, and recovering. She is standing by your sign, and she still hasn’t stopped saying how much she loves it… Thank you!” Here we go again, here comes the water works…
Time passed, and I never stopped asking, praying and wondering. The text messages became sparse, and I had to make do with what I could. One day, late in the afternoon, I got a message saying that Karen kept the sign I made for her, hung on the wall above her bed, and that she continues adoring it always.
Recently, I messaged Karen to ask how she was doing, and I got the marvelous news that she is cancer-free now, and has been for a little while.
I reminded her that I love her, and think of her often. We spoke of memories, and how we need to get together again soon.
I always knew she could do it… I believe my doubt was in whether or not I could handle it. I am blessed to see her recover so well.
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