Learning About Life


By Caryn, who was 18 years old when her friend was diagnosed with cancer.

Even though it’s been a year and a half since my friend died of leukemia, sometimes I think I haven’t fully realized that she is gone, even now. I miss her.

When people look back at Melissa and her life, they have so much to say, so many memories. I am proud just to have been her friend, and to have stayed by her through it all. Selfishly, I know how much I have learned from the experience.

I learned about HOPE when Melissa stayed positive and optimistic through nauseating treatments and tiring tests and transfusions.

I learned about DETERMINATION when Melissa went to her classes at the University of Rochester barely a week after brain surgery. She could hardly speak and she could not yet write, and still she was resolved to succeed.

I learned about STRENGTH when I watched her leave for the University of Pennsylvania, reassuring her worried parents, diligently going to treatment, carrying everyone’s concerns on her shoulders as she set off to do what she wanted to do.

I learned about GRACE as Melissa took every bit of news, every decision, and every realization with class and elegance. She may have thought it at one time, but you never heard her ask “why.”

Finally, I learned a little more about LIFE and how to live it. Melissa was brave and determined and courageous and driven, and she lived life to the last drop.

Anyone could learn from her story. I’m just glad I stuck around long enough to see that. If you have a friend with cancer, treat them with respect, openness and honesty. Have the courage to be a true friend, to build up trust, and to be open to learning a thing or two. It will be tough sometimes, but you will be changed for the better.

I have Melissa to thank for that.

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