Cancer afflicts far too many people and wrecks havoc on families and probably the most daunting thing about the disease is that it doesn’t discriminate against age. It is for this reason that parents have had to say goodbye to their children at ages that are far too young, leaving them to deal with a life of crippling emotions. Nobody wants to lose a loved one to cancer, let alone a child.
When 13-year-old Athena Orchard was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer, her family rallied together to support her in her fight against the disease. Orchard was an avid boxer and athlete and lit up the room with her smile, and she faced her chemotherapy treatments head-on, determined to get better, however; after a courageous battle, Orchard lost her fight in May 2014, leaving behind her devastated parents and eight siblings.
A few days after she passed, Orchard’s parents, Caroline and Dean were removing a full-length mirror from her bedroom and they were shocked to find something written on the back of the mirror. Little did they know, Orchard had written her feelings about her illness, love, life, and happiness and the secret message was passed along to the rest of the family as words to live by. Totaling 3,000 words, the message proved to be advice for people around the world.
Part of her message can be seen below…
“Happiness depends upon ourselves. Maybe it’s not about the happy ending, maybe it’s about the story. The purpose of life is a life of purpose. The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra. Happiness is a direction, not a destination. Thank you for existing. Be happy, be free, believe, forever young. You know my name, not my story. You have heard what I’ve done, but not what I’ve been through. Love is like glass, looks so lovely but it’s easy to shatter. Love is rare, life is strange, nothing lasts and people change. Every day is special, so make the most of it, you could get a life-ending illness tomorrow so make the most of every day. Life is only bad if you make it bad. If someone loves you, then they wouldn’t let you slip away no matter how hard the situation is. Remember that life is full of ups and downs. Never give up on something you can’t go a day without thinking about. I want to be that girl who makes the bad days better and the one that makes you say my life has changed since I met her! Love is not about how much you say I love you – it’s about how much you can prove it’s true. Love is like the wind, you can feel it but you can’t see it. I’m waiting to fall in love with someone I can open my heart to. Love is not about who you can see spending your future with, it’s about who you can’t see spending your life without. Life is a game for everyone but love is the prize. Only I can judge me. Sometimes love hurts. Now I’m fighting myself. Baby, I can feel your pain. Dreams are my reality. It hurts but it’s okay, I’m used to it. Don’t be quick to judge me, you only see what I choose to show you. you don’t know the truth. I just want to have fun and be happy without being judged.”
Orchard is a perfect example of someone who dreamed big, regardless of what she was up against. She didn’t let her illness weigh her down or prevent her from making the most of every day and now her family can live the words that she so poignantly expressed on the back of her mirror.
She ended the message with the following…
“This is my life, not yours, don’t worry about what I do. People gonna hate you, rate you, break you, but how strong you stand, that’s what makes you you! There’s no need to cry because I know you’ll be by my side.”
Unable to part with their daughter’s message, Dean and Caroline hung it up in their house as everyday inspiration and a way for them to feel the presence of her.