Many people get sick during the winter months. Colds and the flu are very common between November and March. Many people who get sick during the winter don’t bother to go to the doctor. Since there is no cure for the cold and the flu needs to run its course, many people just wait it out and take over the counter medication to treat their symptoms. In most cases, the illness and symptoms run their course. In other cases, the cause of the symptoms is much more serious than the common cold or the flu.
A Sick Teen
Shayla Mitchell was 16-years-old when she woke up feeling sick. She had a nagging cough and assumed that she might have had a cold or a sinus infection. She thought that she could wait out her illness only to find that her cough wasn’t getting any better. Finally, she asked her father, Tom, if they could go to the doctor. She just wanted to start feeling better. Tom told his daughter that he would schedule the appointment and he would pick her up the next day after school. He told her that after the appointment, they would get something to eat. Coughing teen asks dad to take her to hospital – within hours, he’s left broken.
Shayla and her father went to the doctor the next day. After the doctor examined Shayla, he left the room for a bit. When he came back, he had news that would change her family’s life forever. The doctor said that Shayla had a large cancerous tumor that took up 2/3 of her breasts. It was so large that it caused one of her lungs to collapse which is why she had had such a bad cough for so long. Shayla and her father were in shock. Rather than going out for dinner, they had to share a meal in the hospital. They had no idea that day that they would be eating their next 450 meals in the pediatric oncology unit at Fairfax Hospital.
Shayla was diagnosed with advanced Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and her prognosis wasn’t good. Tom was determined to stand by his daughter and do everything that he could to get her healthy again. He wanted to show Shayla that she had his full support and he brought a bracelet for each of them. He promised to wear his bracelet every day until she beat the cancer.
Years Of Treatment
For the next few years, Tom spent hundreds of nights with his daughter while she battled cancer. She had to go through chemotherapy, radiation, blood transfusions, multiple tests, and she even went into cardiac arrest. Through all of this, she never gave up the fight. It was difficult for both Shayla and her father, but he never left her side. He was by his daughter’s side when she cried, vomited, and when she was in intense pain. He tried to be brave, and he is even braver.
One day, Shayla’s doctor came into the room and told her father that her body was no longer responding to treatment. They told him that there was nothing that they could do for her. She had a bone marrow transplant as a last ditch effort, and it failed.
Love What Matters
Tom created a Facebook post and published it on the Love What Matters page. In his post, he wrote, “How in the world was I supposed to have this conversation with my darling daughter? How can I be brave enough to tell her that she was going to die.” His post was very moving. He says that he realized that Shayla wasn’t being brave for herself. She was being brave for her father.
Being Brave Til the End
Shortly after Shayla died, Tom thought about her promise. She promised to be brave to the very end, and Tom knows that she was. She went though endless pain and treatment trying to fight for her life. Tom says that there is nothing braver than that.
When Shayla died, Tom started a nonprofit to help kids who are suffering from cancer. Because he and Shayla promised always to be brave, he called the nonprofit, Still Brave.org.
In Memory Of Shayla
Tom needed to keep Shayla’s memory alive, and his foundation did that. He says that not a second goes by that he doesn’t miss his daughter. Still Brave.org is his way to stay close to his daughter. Tom says that his daughter’s bravery inspired him to be just as brave. He hopes that the foundation that he started can help others in Shayla’s situation. He says that she was a trooper right to the end and he will forever treasure the time that he had with his daughter.