Have you ever had a thirteen year old ask you if she was going to die? I have. It’s an experience I hope no one ever has to go through, but one that has taught me faith and strength I never thought I had.
When you find out a family member only has less than a year to live, your whole perspective on life changes. You focus on the day, take nothing for granted and live in that moment. This is something I’ve come to realize and appreciate more each day.
In July, my little cousin Jasmine, was diagnosed with Malignant Nerve Sheath Cancer. It paralyzed her from the waist down. My family never left her side as she underwent months of agonizing treatments, causing her nausea, loss of hair, and third degree burns on her back from the radiation.
After five long months, it was time for her to come home. I can never forget the smile she had on her face coming through the door, a smile that never seemed to fade even after all she’d been through.
She was home, her treatments were over and as far as the doctors knew her cancer was gone, they just had to do one more test in a month to make sure. One more test that would change my family’s life forever.
I remember that day so clearly. Christmas was over and you couldn’t even walk in Jasmine’s house without tripping over toys. My mom, my cousin Lacey, her husband, and I all sat on the couch waiting for Jasmine and her mom, Beth to return with some good news about her tests.
We waited what seemed like hours and then finally the door opened. As soon as Beth walked in, I could tell something was wrong. Not only was her face lifeless, but Jasmine was not with her. She tried taking another step and collapsed to the floor and through each breathless sob, told us that the cancer was back and spreading fast.
Everyone around me was crying, but I wasn’t. The sadness in me was being suppressed by the sickness and anger I felt. I was so angry that I got up from the couch and ran outside. I didn’t want to be around anyone. I sat on the ground, my arms holding my knees to my chest.
I was so mentally numb that I couldn’t even feel the wetness of the snow soaking through my clothes. This was the worst day of my life and I wasn’t even the one who was sick.
I was mad at the doctors, I was mad at the stupid cancer, and but most of all I was mad at God. I have been through many loses in my life and most of them to cancer, but this one hit me hard. Why a thirteen year old? What did she do wrong? Why my family? So many questions ran through my head and still are.
I didn’t think that my family or I would ever be happy again, but Jasmine’s strength and positive attitude made us all come to realize that even something so horrible and unfair shouldn’t keep us from cherishing each day we did have together.
Although she is sick and becoming weaker everyday she has never stopped smiling. She has always loved life and is just loving it more now. It is hard not to grin when looking at her, she lights up the room. Even from the beginning she never lost her hope and she goes after everything she wants. It is because of her that we take it one day at a time. We want her to love each day which she does and also to experience as much as she can.
Thanks to the Make a Wish Foundation her biggest dream became a reality. She met her idol, her love, Justin Bieber. To many teenage girls he is their obsession, but to Jasmine he is a way of life.
Not only is her room and all of her hospital rooms covered in Bieber pictures, but so is her wheel chair, and even her toothbrush sings Bieber songs. She truly is his number one fan.
The day she got to meet him her ultimate wish came true. No one or nothing, not even the cancer could keep her excitement from showing. Words could not describe her happiness that meeting Justin brought her.
That day she no longer saw herself as sick, but as the luckiest girl in the world! It amazed me that she, the person that was going through all of this would consider herself lucky.
It was at this moment that I realized how strong she was. She wasn’t worrying about the future; she was living for the day. Her strength and positive attitude was rubbing off on everyone, my family, our friends, and most of all me. We no longer worry about what the future will bring for her, but live every day to its fullest, take nothing for granted, and live in the moment.
Teri Lazzara is a senior and communication major at Western New England University.