My best friend in high school taught me about hope, love and how to deal with the hand you’re dealt.
Not many stories of hope begin with a death, but stay with me. This is important.
At the beginning of my senior year of high school, my best friend, Missi, slipped away during her final valiant fight with cancer. But this isn’t a sad anecdote about loss, grief or the cruelty of disease. Missi was a beacon of hope and strength throughout her battle with cancer.
Being perceived as saintlike or an inspiration on the sole merit of having cancer annoyed Missi to no end. If people insisted on romanticizing her condition that way, she was determined to earn it. Missi had more to say and do and didn’t want her contributions to life swept away by generic platitudes that served more to make her friends feel like they were concerned enough and she was getting better.
Missi didn’t see cancer as a valid enough obstacle to keep her from doing everything she could to bring awareness to the world and spread her unique brand of happiness among the people who loved her most. Missi didn’t want cancer to define her, so she kept some information a secret between Missi and her immediate family — primarily the fact nothing could be done for her. The cancer was noticed too late to turn around her terminal prognosis. Missi knew it and constantly faced the reality her days were numbered. If her small circle of friends subconsciously believed this, we never fully accepted it, preferring to remain oblivious to the painful loss on the horizon.
Even as Missi looked to a future she knew she couldn’t be a part of, she participated in experimental treatments. And she encouraged her family to remain dedicated to cancer research and awareness.
In 1991, there were no pink ribbons as symbols of cancer awareness. Despite the fact almost everyone knew someone with cancer, the disease didn’t achieve the focus of the collective consciousness until years later. I’d like to believe Missi had a role in getting that ball rolling.
Missi didn’t keep her cancer a secret, but to foster hope she kept her prognosis from being known outside her family. Despite Missi’s prognosis, she never truly relented. Missi lived the life she had left spreading hope and positivity — connecting to other cancer patients, recommending books of hope and generally living life to the fullest within the parameters her condition allowed. Cancer and chemo had taken an obvious toll on her appearance, but her eyes sparkled like never before. She continued to work diligently at school toward a future that was more than unlikely. (We were co-editors of Brookville (Ohio) High School’s student newspaper, The Blue Blazer, until she was no longer capable of attending classes.)
Missi knew technology was improving. The experimental treatments she endured meant making good on her personal promise to be a part of the answer. That’s what Missi wanted the world to remember about her: That she was a beautiful, bald-headed teen with a message of hope — never give up. That’s the Missi I love, and that’s her legacy.
Please share your uplifting cancer stories
North Coast Media (NCM) plans to donate to the American Cancer Society a portion of all October issues’ revenue from PMP and its five other market-leading B2B media brands.
“As part of this NCM initiative, each publication’s October cover will have its logo printed in pink,” said NCM President Kevin Stoltman. “Though our donation will be given to the American Cancer Society to benefit research of all cancer types, October is breast cancer awareness month, and for many of our brands, their biggest-issue month.”
PMP’s readers and marketing partners are encouraged to share their uplifting cancer stories for publication consideration in PMP’s October show issue:
■ cancer survivor stories;
■ uplifting moments from current courageous cancer battles (i.e. new perspective on life, overwhelming support from coworkers, colleagues and loved ones, etc.);
■ company involvement in cancer-related fundraisers and organizations; and
■ interesting ways to memorialize a loved one lost as a result of cancer.
Please send submissions for editorial consideration by July 31, 2014, to PMP Editorial Director & Publisher Marty Whitford at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can reach Nepper at email@example.com or 216-706-3775.