Thomas Nielsen was 14 years old when he was first diagnosed with Leukemia. With treatment, he battled and won. He took up lacrosse and had lots of friends. He was kind of quirky, and his mom was amazed at how cancer had transformed her boy into such an outgoing guy. He said that after you deal with being a bald teenager and all the funny looks you get, not much bothers you anymore. Once he stopped caring what people thought, he found people liked his quirks.
When Thomas was 18, the cancer came back. Three times. 18, 19, and 20 were all spent battling cancer. Thomas was only 21 when cancer took his life on October 4, 2009. After he died, his mom read his journal. She felt like it was okay to read it, but if he has a problem with it she will gladly apologize in heaven. Thomas's mom is one of my professors, and she shared a portion of his journal with my class.
The entry wasn't dated, but Dr. Nielsen thinks it was written in January or February of 2009. It was a grateful list. I read his list with teary eyes. Some items on the list were related to his cancer...for surviving as long as he had, for the possibility that he could get better, for bone marrow transplants. Then there were the names. So many names. People who had impacted his life. Family, friends, teachers. I especially liked how he listed specific reasons some people made the list.
The list is really long. Dr. Nielsen gave us each a copy. I keep it in the front of my binder. It reminds me to be grateful for everything in life. Because even when things are crazy busy, life is crazy good.
So here are a few of my favorite parts about today:
- crepes with fresh strawberries for breakfast
- boys holding doors open - especially the guy in my class who was limping today but he saw me coming down the hall and held the door open until I got there
- Mr. Rogers - we talked about him in class today and I think he is just the greatest
- my job (and always getting a cup full of M&M's and other candies from my boss)
- strawberry shortcakes
- my body - have you ever thought about how awesome it feels to just breathe?