Being a teenager is like being on a fast-paced roller coaster. While one day brings satisfaction and joy the next brings tragedy and the grim reality of failure or even death. No matter what, problems always rise up making life so challenging. I am very grateful, especially my best friend, Laila, who showed me the true meaning of courage, hope and compassion that I believe in now.
Sitting in the doctor’s office I now think back: as kids, Laila and I had so much in common from being shy, to having same goals.
However, she differed from me because she always had a positive attitude towards everything. I remember the time she missed school for few days, I called her:
“Laila, where have you been? I haven’t seen you!”
“I know, Sarah they are running tests on me to see if I have a disease.” Laila muttered dryly.
Horrified, speechless, I selfishly blurred out, “Is it contagious?”
She cracked up thinking that I was kidding. I wasn’t though. That freaked me out! Did she get Mono or something?
The following week as I recall, was the most difficult time for Laila, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease stage II. Not sure what that meant, “Was she going to die?” So many emotions were building up inside me, I hugged her and we both cried helplessly. This couldn’t happen, we were supposed to graduate and go to the prom together. I promised myself I would get her through this. I researched and found out the extent of the disease and the requirement of intense chemotherapy and 75% of the people can be cured with radiation. I knew everything was about to change and we were falling off that roller coaster.
During her battle with cancer and treatments, I stayed by her side while she got weaker, paler and thinner. When she came home, watching her body collapse on the couch, I worried, “Is she breathing.” Then she started losing her gorgeous hair, without hesitation and despair I went to the salon. “Please cut my hair for Locks of Love, to make a wig for my friend.” I couldn’t let her feel the trauma of being bald. The Stylist started measuring my hair and literally chopped off the back of my head. Afterwards, I laughed, “It wasn’t that bad.” I wore bandanas too, keeping her company until the wig was ready. Continuing to stay optimistic towards the prognosis to beat the cancer that plagued her, Desperately, I negotiated with God standing over her bony, frail figure, “Please God don’t let her die. You are the only one I can turn to, please God save her!”
Finally, after several months Laila did go into remission, she reclaimed her body and mind. Her determination to overcome the disease and help others fight it became her primary goal. This is the time when the roller coaster came to a halt. Courage, hope and compassion are now what I believe in, thanks to Laila.
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