My aunt sent this to me in 1994 when I was starting my job as a camp counselor in Maine. It was great news to me back then, but now it’s a little tough for me to read.
I knew Danny because we both went to Saint John’s in Shrewsbury, MA. We weren’t in many classes together, but were in the same homeroom for all four years. When he was diagnosed with cancer in 1993, I went to visit him in the hospital. I gave him the cross (see article) a priest had given me when I had cancer, hoping it would help bring him the same results as it had brought me. I also told Danny that when I was sick, I tried to keep laughing as much as I could by watching funny movies and Comedy Central. It was a great visit, and he seemed confident that he was going to beat his cancer.
About a year later, Danny lost his battle. His transplant had been a success and he was only days away from going home, but he caught an infection that his treatment-worn body just couldn’t fight. When I got the news, I felt sad, angry, and guilty. I wondered if there was anything more I could have said or done to help him. I knew I could have visited Danny more, but at the time I didn’t want to seem like I was butting in. I asked myself why I made it through and he didn’t. It was my first taste of something that I still sometimes struggle with: Survivor’s Guilt.
When Danny passed away, I was a junior in college and had a drinking problem. My way of dealing with Survivor’s Guilt was to drink more. Guess what? I didn’t help; it only made me feel worse. Now, I haven’t had a drink in almost 16 years and I have discovered weapons that help me fight the Survivor’s Guilt.
The biggest anti-SG weapon I have is my job. I get paid to help cancer patients deal with their battles every night at Hope Lodge. This comes in forms like watching funny movies, sharing my cancer story, or just listening to guests tell me about their day. I really believe Danny somehow helped me find this job at Hope Lodge.
My other weapons are writing and taking some sort of action to fight back against cancer. I write about my cancer story, the people I know who have been affected by cancer, and ways others can help fight cancer. I participate in fundraisers and am in the middle of creating Skating for Hope event to benefit Hope Lodge.
Thanks for all the inspiration, Danny. You help me want to make the most of my life…