Cancer has affected all of us in some negative way, whether we have lost a grandparent, aunt, uncle, parent, sibling, child, or close friend. It is the enemy of every one of us. Nothing good has come from its retched existence. However, the one thing I have learned from this disease that takes people at all ages is that I learn to look at every human being in a positive light. Some of the people that it has taken have contributed to who I am today and inspire me to fight this disease for students all around me.
Though I have lost many, here are 3 of those wonderful people who make me never want to give up the fight.
Raul was diagnosed with cancer the summer before his 8th grade year. He fought his battle until his freshman year at Duke University, passing away just before Christmas. Here is a kid who fought cancer, but also did all he could to help others who were suffering in his hometown of Savannah, GA establishing Teen HOPE, where he provided entertainment to teens who were in the hospital giving them laptops, music, etc. and visiting them on a regular basis to provide entertainment. I have taught thousands of kids in my 23 years of teaching, and Raul is at the top of the list for one of the nicest kids I have ever had the pleasure of teaching. He is a large influence on my decision to help kids with cancer, for he touched me in a way that cannot be explained. I miss you Raul and think of you every day.
Lee was such a positive influence on my life, for I learned from him how a teacher should teach: explain clearly, have a passion about what you are teaching, and above all, be available to help, no matter how busy you are. Lee was the best professor I ever had at Hampden-Sydney. He took an interest in his students and did everything he could to guide all of us in the right direction. When others said don’t go into teaching, he encouraged me to do what my heart felt was right. Both my wife and I thought the world of him, and that is why we he was my son’s Godfather. However, he passed away from pancreatic cancer at the young age of 44. I hope my teaching is half as great as his was.
Janet was my mother-in-law. Contrary to how the saying goes, there is no way you couldn’t love this in-law. Janet was the most giving of any person I have ever met in my life. She would buy presents for kids of anyone she knew and some for people she didn’t even know. Every time she left my house, my kids or myself would find money under our pillow or hidden somewhere in the house. If you found money, you knew Nana did it. She always put others above herself and never treated anyone with anything but respect. I saw her give others presents when I knew she had nothing for herself. She was the quintessential “Angel on Earth.”