“I feel bad.”


It’s late and I should be sleeping, but there are just moments in life that ask to be written about.

Tonight was a Brighter Tomorrows night. Those who know me know this is my favorite night of life, every single time it happens. Those who don’t know me now know that it’s my favorite. Moving on.

We had 37 kids RSVP. That’s amazing to me. I don’t want kids to have cancer, but if they do have cancer, I do want them to come to Brighter Tomorrows to play games with us, to laugh with us, and to have summer camp with us once every month.

One conversation (among the many that are seriously the most inspirational things in life) tonight struck me and just keeps playing over and over again in my head. That’s why I am writing and not sleeping.

There is a 7 year old boy with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. I know most of his story because I’ve read it, met his family, talked with others who know him. But he doesn’t know that. He just thinks I know him for him. So we’re making some crafts and I mention that he still has his port accessed (most of the time kids don’t leave with a line in if they are just going for chemo) and I ask him why that is. He tells me that it’s for radiation and goes on to explain the burns that he has from it.

He rolls down the edge of his comfy pants, and I see the red line where that burn starts. I ask him casually if it hurts (because to him, cancer is casual and a part of life…I remember) and he says “Nope, not at all.” I’m sure at some points it does because his skin is all a deep, deep red and has a rough look to it, but he gave me the right now answer which is technically what I asked for. (Kids are amazing and I love them.) Then I go on to explain to him that I had cancer as well. I explain my leg and why I didn’t need any radiation and why he does but how we are similar. And then he listens and he and his brother start asking questions.

“Do you have a scar?”
“Yes, one here and here and here.”
“How did they hook it back on?”
“With a plate and screws.”
“So you have metal on you?”
“Well, sort of. Technically I have metal in me.”
“Does that hurt?”
“Nope, not at all, and it keeps my leg on there safely.”

We giggle.

He persists…

“Does it hurt to wear your leg?”
“Nope, it’s made just for me.”
“So your foot is just in there like that, huh?”
“Yes, just like you’re doing it!”
“Wait, so you lost your hair!?”
“I sure did.”

He stops.

“I feel so bad,” he says.

I tell him not to. He tells me he feels bad for me. I tell him I’m okay and everything is good and life is great. He insists that he feels bad for me.

Life is about perspective, my friends. Look without yourself.

…because love wins.

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You’re a survivor and that is amazing.


Each day older I grow, I understand more the reality of what it means to have survived childhood cancer. As a younger person, it was just a part of my life; I hadn’t seen much else, and I was just too busy playing to understand what it means to still be alive today. But now, I marvel at my leg, my hair, and my beating heart. Let me tell you why.

I stood up one morning. I took a step, and my knee gave out beneath me. I never knew that I’d never walk on that leg again. I ate my vegetables, and I slept full nights, and I was even nice to my friends. I never would have expected cancer. I probably would have just called you a liar if you would have told me that was really going to be my life.

But alas, I couldn’t walk. Soon, I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t get out of bed. Sometimes, I almost couldn’t breathe. To say that it’s a humbling experience to face mortality is just more of an understatement than I can explain. No one can walk to death with you. It’s you, and Jesus, (which is why you need Him), and death. I met myself in ways that I cannot describe.

I remember laying in bed begging God to make the throwing up end. To bring my friends back to life, and to just make it all be okay. And seriously, I don’t even know how I survived. I looked dead almost every day for a full year.

But then I did. I started to take steps on crutches. I made myself get out of bed. Jesus restored my spirit, and I locked eyes with death, and shook my head, “no.” And I just turned and walked away into the rest of life.

I am 23 now, and I feel like I grasp that death didn’t win, but that it sure could have. My fingers move, I can take a deep breath, and I can kiss my nephew. And it’s very much on purpose that I am alive.

The take-away is this. If you haven’t met death yet, listen to what I say. Right now, you’re a survivor, and that is amazing. Don’t take that for granted.

….because love wins.

Thank you, Talia.


Image

I didn’t know you, not in person.
It’s true.
But I knew you, in the heart,
I got you.

You were beautiful.
Not because of the makeup.
But because of the goal.
Because you spoke up.

We fight this beast every day.
It killed you.
It killed them.
When will it be through?

I’m a cancer survivor, sure.
But what is surviving?
Pretty lame if all your friends still die.
We were meant to be striving.

I know you won’t share any more words.
That your family will never get their little girl.
That you would have lived so big.
And that you would have changed the world.

And I know you still will.
Because you’re you.
Because you had kid’s cancer.
Because you walked it through.

But I wish you were here.
I wish your scans were clear.
And I wish we could really meet.
Your momma wishes you were near.

But you’re not.
So we’ll keep on.
We’ll dance.
Watch the stars.

We’ll watch Ellen.
We’ll talk about you.
We’ll stop this beast.
We’ll make lives new.

From MSN News:

“Talia Castellano, a charismatic 13-year-old Florida girl with cancer who inspired people around the world with her online videos about makeup and who became an honorary face of CoverGirl cosmetics, has died.

Talia, who had been fighting neuroblastoma, a type of childhood cancer, for six years, died Tuesday morning with her family by her side.

The passing note was pasted on her official facebook page:

“It is with a heavy heart that we share with all of you that Talia has earned her wings at 11:22 a.m. Please lift her beautiful soul, her beautiful light to heaven and please send your love and prayers to her family during this most difficult time. Godspeed, little one, may you be free from pain and suffering, may your soul feel the light and love that you brought to so many of us on this Earth during the short time you were here with us. We will miss you more than you will ever know, baby girl.”

Talia’s YouTube channel, filled with videos of tutorials about makeup, drew hundreds of thousands of subscribers.

Talia didn’t like wigs to cover her bald head, but she loved wearing makeup.

“It’s really cool to know that people watch me, and that they like me, and they think I’m inspiring,” she told Fox 35 in an interview last year. “Every single comment that I get that says they think I’m inspiring or whatever, it feels so good. It’s really cool.”

Talia had many TV appearances, including one on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” in September.

DeGeneres, a representative of CoverGirl, made Talia an honorary CoverGirl, complete with her own portrait. Talia was also given a check for $20,000 from the makeup brand and appeared in an ad in People magazine for CoverGirl.

ImageTalia was featured in the documentary movie “The Truth 365,” about kids fighting cancer.

DeGeneres took to Twitter to express her condolences.

“This year I met a very special girl, and today we lost her. Sending my heart to Talia’s family. I’m so sad,” the talk show host tweeted.”

And you can help us end childhood cancer. No one should be just a good story. We should be moms, dads, sisters, grandparents, softball players, professional make-up artists. We shouldn’t be dead.

If you’d like to end childhood cancer with us, please watch this documentary, and “like” TheTruth365 on facebook. You’ll see my story featured there as well.

To all those who help, thank you.

To Talia, thank you.

Let’s stop childhood cancer.

…because love (has to) win.

There’s nothing like us.


Justin Bieber recently released a new song. (They say it was leaked – but that doesn’t actually happen. People don’t just let songs slip.) It’s called Nothing Like Us. It’s about his beautiful-world-watches-us relationship with a stunning girl in new dresses and a boy in sneakers who wants to change the world. 

And I really like it. Probably my most favorite song he has ever written. It’s raw. It’s real. It’s beauty to everyone that watches this young man’s life.

I like it because it’s easy to covet the lives of celebrities. It’s easy to want to be them, and have the things that we see. It’s easy to want the lies around them of how happy they are. How beautiful they look with make up on and walking a red carpet. How put together they are when they sit down at night and wonder who they even are. 

What strange pieces of hope on which the world chooses to focus. 

But Justin, and most celebrities who stand their ground as firmly as possible are so special. They are God’s way of reaching into the hearts of 30 million twitter followers and share with them that there is human everywhere. That no one is super-human, and that no amount of money will fix what hurts in the world.

In fact, they show us that having the super-human life of Justin Bieber may be harder than our own. And that even if you’re Justin Bieber – wildly talented, and seemingly having “everything”, that you still deeply need to be loved. 

Heartache is real. Success is real. Hope is real. But His name is Jesus. 

And I love this song because it shows that Justin Bieber, just like all of us, are human. And we need Someone greater than ourselves every day, because we reach our ends. 

Take deep breaths and enjoy your day, friends. 

…because love wins.