Thomas O'Brien: The Stranger That I Can't Forget
Since I was old enough to understand Cancer I have always been haunted by it. Though millions beat it, in my mind it equates to death and when I hear the word my heart drops and my body fills with fear. In the back of my mind there is always an apprehension and trepidation that this silent killer could be hiding in my body, only to one day to rear it’s ugly and unforgiving head and turn my life upside down. I’ve often thought of my future and wondered if when I’m 40 or 50 or 60 will I be someone like so many I’ve seen that are faced with fighting this disease. We hear about people battling cancer everyday. I doubt anyone can say they don’t know someone that has had it. But we rarely think it will be us…. Because you see, no one ever envisions when they are 20 that they will die at 40. Everyone thinks that they will live a long life and die of old age. The end is not something we dwell on or think about daily. In fact I think many just prefer to not think about it. When I do sit and think that one day I won’t walk this Earth ….I get chills. And when I go to funerals I am shaken for weeks. I cannot walk on the grounds of a cemetery without having a panic attack and when I wonder when and where I’ll die it leaves me uneasy and almost breathless. It wasn’t until my grandfather passed four years ago that heaven began to feel a little less enchanted or mystical and slightly more tangible. At least I will know someone there when the time comes.
But what if at 18 years old you were bludgeoned with the news that Cancer has appeared in your young body. Hodgkin’s Lymphoma to be exact. And what if after the fight of your young life, it’s the end of the twelfth round and the bell is ringing, but the crowd is not cheering because when the points are tallied the score cards show you losing, and death is now knocking at your door. Your CT scans returned covered in black dots and your medical insurance is no longer being accepted. At just 21 years old, that is the harsh reality that Thomas O’Brien has lived and continues to face. Even as I type this blog, he is in ICU at MD Anderson fighting his brave fight. You see he lives with what until recently has been my biggest fear. He goes through every single day not knowing if it will be his last. He looks the end of life in the face daily and makes the best of it. He enters the hospital doors more frequently now and surely he must wonder each time he walks through them if he will ever get to feel the sunlight hit his skin and the wind across his face again. He is a Lamar High School Graduate and a Houston Police Officer who just recently became a deputy. I think to be forced to face such a dark and scary truth at such a young age is so unfair. I have never cried more tears for a complete stranger than I do for this young man.
You see when I was 18 I was playing basketball and wrecking cars. When I was 22 I was graduating college, falling in love and having a baby. These are things that Thomas will never get to do and things that he will never be able to experience. And thinking of that also made me realize something else. Since Thomas will never have kids he will never understand the level of love that exists between a parent and child. I said above, that Thomas’ story is now my second biggest fear. Because the only thing worse than something like this happening to me would be it happening to my daughter. I have tears streaming down my face just thinking about it. How would one go on? I cannot begin to wonder how his mother is doing, watching her son lose weight, feel sick, have tumors burst in his chest and deteriorate before her eyes and know there is nothing she can do. I pray for her every night and pray I never know what she feels like.
Thomas had a goal of reaching 5,000 facebook friends. This is really how I began to actually see his daily struggle and understand his courage. I added him about 2 weeks ago and he had about 287 friends. He reached the 5,000 mark today and has brought thousands of people together to pray for him. He posts pictures a lot. He is thin and frail. Hundreds of posts are left daily and most are well wishes and words of encouragement. I can only imagine what he thinks when he reads them. I think it would be a constant reminder of ..well just everything….idk. He is always smiling though. If our God has any miracles to give today there are thousands praying that Thomas is the one that receives one. Yet through it all Thomas has faith and says he has accepted the Lords path. Truly a remarkable young person whose life is being cut way too short.
His story has left me feeling so awful….so helpless… It is just so unfair. Please pray for Thomas and pray for his parents. I wrote this blog because I just can't stop thinking about him and his story. It bothers me to no end. Above everything else live and love as if there is no tomorrow, because those with an uncertain tomorrow only wish they had the days that you do. From here on out, I doubt there will be a single day of my life that I don’t think about his story…however long my life may be.