Ben Mayo is currently a Sophomore at Shenendehowa Central School District. He and my son, Stephen, are in the same grade and both are involved in Nick’s Round Table, the teen advisory board for Nick’s Fight to be Healed Foundation. Ben and Stephen have had different experiences with cancer. Ben was diagnosed with Medulloblastoma, a malignant brain tumor, on August 29, 2009, the summer before he entered seventh grade. Stephen had already lost his older brother Nick to cancer the previous year in October 2008.
Two teens living within miles of each other in the same grade both dealing with cancer in their own way. For each of them, it takes courage to get through each day. Ben’s life was thrown off kilter just as his balance and vision were by this invasive brain tumor. Ben ended up receiving most of his treatments at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. To completely uproot your life takes courage, and Ben showed how brave he was by going through treatments that were painful, required him to be still for long periods of time, and kept him away from his friends and family for a large part of that treatment. So many children with cancer have to go away from what they know and love in order to survive. Their fortitude is incredible.
As a sibling to a cancer patient, Stephen was often left home with my husband while I was with Nick in the hospital at Albany Medical Center. Even though he wasn’t away from his home, his personal life was disrupted, he lived with the fear of not having his brother back, and unfortunately that fear became a reality. Stephen was strong for Nick and after Nick died, he found the courage to go back to school, try to adjust to this new life that none of us wanted, and be involved in a foundation that would always remind him that he lost his brother to cancer.
For both Ben and Stephen, being involved in a foundation that supports cancer patients and requires them to speak out takes courage. Expressing their opinions about cancer so that others can help them bring about change makes them leaders in their teen community, but it also can be scary to put yourself out there where some peers may not understand or want to be involved. It takes courage to fight cancer, whether personally battling for your life or supporting those with cancer, but it’s imperative to speak up about why we must help other children and raise awareness about this terrible disease. Ben and Stephen’s stories are two of so many.
With young adults who refuse to back down in the face of grief, personal illness, or social pressure, we can beat cancer. It just takes courage and believing that you can make a difference.
|Ben drew this in February 2012 for Shenendehowa Central School’s Respect Day
to bring awareness about cancer to his school.