A young teenager thought that her constant coughing was just caused by a sinus infection, but little did she and her dad know, there’s more to it than just a simple disease. What they would soon discover would shock them, something that both of them did not expect.
16-year-old Shayla Mitchell wasn’t feeling too well and asked her dad to pick her up after school to go to the doctor for a check-up and eat out after that. The doctor made some examination and sadly told them Shayla’s medical condition. She had cancer (Stage 4 Hodgkin’s disease). She had a big tumor that destroyed two-thirds of her chest and one of her lungs.
The overwhelming diagnosis was very devastating for both of them, especially to, Tom, Shayla’s dad. Tom shared with Love What Matters that they did eat dinner not in a restaurant, but in the pediatric oncology unit of Fairfax Hospital that night.
“We didn’t know it at the time, but we would wind up having our next 450 meals in that hospital, as well as hundreds and hundreds of additional meals over the next couple of years.”
Tom bought two bracelets for each of them before talking to Shayla about what’s going on with her health. He put one bracelet on Shayla and put one on himself.
“I talked with her about everything and nothing. I talked with her about the wind and about feathers and I talked with her about cancer. We talked about the word ‘brave.’ We held each other very tight for a very long time. I’m pretty sure we both cried, and we promised each other that no matter what, we would be brave; together we would get through this.”
“That I would wear my bracelet until the day she was cancer free. That for every single night she had to stay in the hospital I would stay with her. That as long as she stayed brave, so would I.”
Shayla’s treatment went on for a couple of years and had gone through many tests, chemotherapy sessions, blood transfusions, and other kinds of treatments. Her body slowly deteriorated that the doctors said that there was nothing more they could do. Tom’s heart was broken every time he would see her dear daughter suffer every day. Shayla’s heart began to fail.
“…her poor little heart quit working, so they had to install a pacemaker/defibrillator into her chest,” Tom added.
The apparatus malfunctioned and shocked her daughter with volts of electricity, but finally stopped.
“But I refused to let go. I just held her as tightly as I could and just like that. it stopped shocking her as quickly as it had started, and we rushed to the hospital. It turns out the manufacturer of this device had to recall thousands of them like brakes on a Chevy.”
Though the doctors did what they could, Shayla’s body couldn’t take it any longer. It was at that moment that Tom felt deeply troubled.
“How in the world was I supposed to have this conversation with my darling daughter? How in the world was I going to be brave enough to tell my daughter she was going to die? … I knew I had to be brave for HER! I did, of course, have that conversation with her, and as unbelievable as this may sound it turned out to be the most amazing, beautiful, magical, wonderful conversation I’ve ever had in my entire life, and one that I hope you NEVER EVER have to have…”
Before Shayla died, she whispered to her dad.
“Am I still brave, Dad?
In spite of all what Shayla had gone through, Tom knew that she fought to be brave, not only for herself but for him. She fought hard despite her ordeals to survive. What a brave girl she was…
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