by Mor Avital
Berkeley, California, USA
A few years ago I was diagnosed with cancer. Nothing majorly life threatening, but to a 15-year-old girl, cancer is cancer, no matter how mild. I was terrified of all the tests, surgeries, and therapy that I had to go through. I tried talking to a few of my friends, but all I got in response were the standard “I’m so sorry for you” line, or the “Is cancer contagious?” question, which I didn’t know if I should cry or laugh at.
One weekend I went to New Jersey with a big group of people. It was snowing outside, a site a Californian just doesn’t see that often. I wanted to go see the snow falling. One of the group, Dan, lent me his jacket, and we walked together through the trees, not saying much, just walking. When it got dark, we went back into the cabin, and sat by the fire that someone had started in the fireplace.
Dan and I started talking, and he asked me what was going on in my life. I don’t know why I decided to tell him, but I did. I told him everything that was happening to me, both physically and emotionally. I remember I started crying at one point, and he just held me there for the longest time. Then he told me he was sick too, that he had cystic fibrosis, and had been battling it for years. He told me what he has been going through, and that he understands what I’m going through. We really got close over that weekend.
From then on, whenever I was scared, I went to Dan, and he helped me through it. He was only a few years older than me, but he knew so much about what I was going through. I talked to him for years, through reoccurrence and remissions. The whole time, I could see that he was getting worse and worse, but he never stopped talking to me, and I encouraged him to tell me more about himself.
Dan died a week before I wrote this, at the age of 21, but I will never forget what he did for me. If it wasn’t for him, I’m not sure I could have made it through my own illness as well as I did. I know for a fact that he helped others the way he helped me, all the while battling with his own incurable illness. Never once did he seem like he was giving up hope, and that always encouraged me to believe that everything in life will get better. I will miss him dearly, as will many others, but I will always remember that day in New Jersey, sitting by the fireplace, and pouring my heart out to him.
Available in The Best of HeroicStories, Volume 1.