Cancer Changes Lives

By responding to a text one teen's life is forever changed.

A few months ago I got a text that someone in our Brooklyn community needed help. The text said a mother with five children was battling cancer. The tears fell down my face. I couldn’t wait to help out. My fingers couldn’t move fast enough to type my response. I got the mother’s number and started talking to her daily. I immediately took it upon myself to visit her children every Wednesday.

A few months ago these people were strangers to me; they are now my second family. On Wednesdays we go out for dinner, play in the park or shop. For dinner I take the kids to a nearby restaurant or we order in.

Rosette Shammah and her brother After a week I knew how to place the order by heart. Every dinner is the same: two hotdogs, one order of fries, one hamburger deluxe and gum balls for dessert. After dinner I help them with homework and once it is all done we play games. Our favorite game is Chutes and Ladders. We laugh as we move pieces the wrong way and mix them up. The children look at me as a part of their family. Picture a room with five kids from the ages of two until 12 years old; no matter what we do we have fun.

Over the first few weeks a strong connection formed between me and the kids. They would look forward to Wednesday and so would I. We didn’t only have fun together, but these young kids opened my eyes to a new world. Each kid taught me how special life is. How every second counts. The tickle fights we had and the jokes and laughter we shared are engraved in my heart. Some days I found myself coming home crying after being with them. My heart was feeling their pain. They had to deal with a sick mother who was never home and always tired. My heart broke for them. I just wanted to hug them all so tight and tell them that I will always be there for them.

The relationship I made with the kids is so special to me, however, another special bond developed. I became very close to the mother. I text her daily now and do anything I can to be there for her such as taking her kids to buy shoes, praying for her, buying her things, and being her right hand girl! The first few times I saw her was an honor to finally meet this women I heard so much about. I’ll never forget the way she looked at me, hugged me and said thank you. That moment, that feeling, her words, they were life-changing for me. She showed me how much power I have within me to change people’s lives. She showed a side of me that I never want to lose: the side that is giving to others.

When I see her I look at my life and suddenly my biggest problems become nothing. As a high school student my biggest problem was trigonometry. The more I spent time with her the kids the more I realized that the number I receive on the top of my paper in red ink means nothing to me. It is only a math test, it is definitely not life. She showed me the good in my own life and how fortunate I am.

Whenever I hear the word cancer I get the chills and picture this woman that came into my life. She is such an amazing person with a stunning soul. I look up to her in so many ways—her warm heart, the traits she instills in her children, her courage, and her faith that she’ll beat this cancer. She is always smiling, always saying “thank God” and always saying “we can do this.” She has truly made a difference in my life.

Cancer. It changes people. I was lucky enough to be there for this family, for the five children, and for the mom. I know it may seem like I do a lot for them, but the opposite is true. The things they give me, the love they show me and the lessons they teach me are so much more rewarding than any dollar in this world. This family has truly changed my life. They gave me the chance to grow; the chance to truly live; and the chance to reach my full potential.

Cancer changes lives. Not only of the patient, but of all the people that are associated with him or her. In my case a stranger with cancer became a part of my family. She turned into the person that gives me hope. She became my inspiration. I realized so much about my own life and what really matters in this world. The family taught me to never stop believing and to never give up. I know this mother and she won’t stop fighting until she wins. I hope and pray that very soon her cancer will only be a bad memory.

By answering one simple text, my life was changed for the better.

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