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This Spider-Man's Secret Identity Makes His Visit to a Cancer Patient Even More Special


For the longest time, my youngest son said that when he grew up, he was going to be a cheetah. Then, after enough people told him it wasn’t possible, he changed it: “Fine, I’ll be a scientist who turns myself into a cheetah.” That persisted until his older brother politely asked him to stop telling people that because it was “kind of embarrassing.” His alternative of becoming Pikachu from Pokemon, however, didn’t sit much better with his big brother. 

Interestingly enough, once everyone stopped asking him what he wanted to be or telling him what he couldn’t be, he boldly informed us that he was going to be a famous author. I tried to hide my excitement about this since I clearly have a bias about this creative path. My first attempt at writing a book, “Ralph and the Talking Wheelchair,” was in the second grade. With its floral, Joann Fabric cover, it now sits with the rest of my unpublished efforts in a small bin in my attic. 

To my surprise, I woke up the other morning and saw a light shining from beneath my son’s bedroom door. Typically, he sneaks downstairs quietly to get his gigantic bowl of goldfish and starts playing his iPad before we can begin monitoring his screen time, or he startles us awake when he chooses to blare Spongebob Squarepants from the TV at 6 a.m. So, I tiptoed down the hall as the sun was just peeking over the hillside, and I peered through his doorway to see him sitting at his desk. He was writing. He must have felt someone staring at him, and he turned to me and said, “Oh, hi, Mom, I am on my next chapter. Do you want to hear it?” 

Holding back tears, I replied, “Of course, tell me.” As my big 8-year-old boy proudly tried to read his words back to me, I could still see the little boy who used to pull and drag me to everything he wanted because he couldn’t get his words out. He started therapy when he was 20 months old, and he was diagnosed with autism a few months later. Language has been an issue from the very beginning, yet here he was sitting at his desk, writing stories. Even though he had trouble reading the words he had written about his Minecraft adventure story, it didn’t matter. He was writing words on a page. He was drawing intricate pictures on paper, the same pictures I know play on repeat on the reel in his mind. My boy, the same boy who shouted, screamed and banged his head to communicate, was now sharing his inner world with me and anyone who would want to read his book.

For years, I sat at a table and held up one picture card at a time, “What is it? Pause What is it – ball? Pause What is it?” He would hopefully repeat, “Ball.” Word by word, he learned language discretely. During all the years sitting at our little table working with our stack of cards, I tried not to look backwards and ask, “Why?” I tried not to look forward and wonder, “What if…” or “Will he?” I tried to live in a day, working with one goal and one word at a time. That approach brought me to his doorway, watching him write his first book. Despite my unwavering belief in him, I must admit that I assumed he would never find joy in things he had trouble with. Clearly, he is my teacher. 

His perseverance and his hard work prove that any of us can find joy in places we might have never thought possible. Who knows, maybe he will publish a book about the scientist who turns the boy into a cheetah.

boy writing at desk


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