Sometimes it’s hard for me to think/write about Justin, but I have to write about Justin…
I met him when I was in the middle of treatment for my cancerous brain tumor. I was 18, he was only 10, but we got along right away. We both loved the Red Sox and laughed as much as we could while getting our treatment.
We requested to share a room whenever we were hospitalized at the same time, and it was easy for me to feed off of Justin’s courage and positive attitude towards cancer. He also taught me how to run the IV machine, which is handy when you want that annoying beeping to stop.
After I was finished treatment, Justin and I kept in touch and hung out a few times when I was home from college. Here’s a letter he wrote me towards the end of my freshman year:
When I was a junior in college I was two years removed from my last chemo round, but two years into my struggle with drinking. I drank so much the last time, that I almost killed myself. I had to be treated at the “regular” hospital and went to McLean’s for my second stint in rehab.
While I was going through all of this, Justin’s battle with cancer was becoming too much for his body to handle. He was only 13 and when he knew things weren’t looking too good, he asked his mother to call me so he could see me another time. My parents and doctors thought it was in my best interest to stay in treatment, so no one told me about Justin’s condition.
Justin passed away, and my father told me one day while I was at McLean’s. I lost it, threw a chair, pushed people out of my way, and retreated to my room where I cried for a long time.
Although I was pissed no one told me until after, I now understand why. And I also know it was my fault that I wasn’t able to see Justin. It was my decision to drink that landed me where I was, and no one else’s. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forgive myself for not being there for Justin, but I also know that what happened made it easy for me to never drink again.
I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you, buddy. You helped me get through two of the most difficult things I’ve faced, and I will never forget that…
Two years ago, I made Justin a luminary bag at the ACS Relay for Life. Someone who was walking in a group with Justin’s mother saw it and pointed it out to her. Justin’s mom came to the Hope Lodge tent and asked who made the bag. My boss pointed her to me, and I talked to Justin’s mother and told her how much he affected my life and how much I thought about him. It really felt like it was part of a movie…