Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"Dancing queen, young and sweet, only seventeen"* raises over $600 for BeatSarcoma

"When you are little, death never really crosses your mind. Swimming in the pool, drinking lemonade and eating popsicles when you are 6 aren’t exactly the moments in life when one explores deeper into the meaning of life and the possibility of death. It especially never plagued me. My childhood was relatively normal. I was never hit with any sorrow or strife. I had my friends and I had my family. Nobody was ill, nobody was suffering. My only worries were where I had left my Barbies or if it would be warm enough for me to go swimming (in Texas though, this problem rarely was an issue).

I feel that for Andy and Nikki Philips, this probably was their only issue at the time as well. Living just a few minutes away from each other, seemingly every summer day consisted of playing with them. My memories of our little play dates are limited and hazy, but whenever I think about them, although I can not recount exactly what we did, I still feel love and warmth in my heart. As we grew older, we grew away from each other as well. We were still close, and whenever I saw them I enjoyed every moment of it. However due to house relocations and the increasing amount of school work one tends to find as they graduate elementary school, those moments slowly decreased. 

We heard that Andy had Osteosarcoma in November of 2007. Andy’s primary tumor was found in his upper left humerus and he had reverse total shoulder surgery on January 29th 2008. He had aggressive chemotherapy in February 2008, continuing for quite a number of months. Intense radiation in September 2008 alleviated much pain. However two months later his journey ended at home in the loving care of his family. When I heard of his passing, my child-like naivety was shattered. What do you mean he has died? No, that’s impossible, he’s only a kid! Death was always just a second thought for me. I knew it existed, I knew it would happen, but never to someone who was my age. We had visited him during my spring break of 2008 and he seemed in high spirits. He was talkative, laughing, smiling—acting like a kid. It reminded me of how when we were kids, Andy, Nikki and I would all play and laugh and giggle. I remembered how happy he was then. Nothing made us grieve or worry. Life was simple and we enjoyed living it.

Having someone so young taken from us made me realize how precious life truly is, how delicate it is and how easily it can be taken from us. I think of it as a gift now, as a wonderful little present wrapped in a beautiful pink bow. So when my birthday approached in February, I thought of what I truly wanted and I realized all I wanted was to enjoy and celebrate life. I wanted to celebrate those many popsicles I had eaten and those hours I had swum with Andy and Nikki. I wanted to just enjoy living life again, simple and fun. I wanted my guests to have fun and, even it was for just a few hours, be able to act like kids again. And what’s more fun than rollerblading? Turning 17, I figured the ABBA song "Dancing Queen" would be fitting, since in the song she is turning 17.

We all acted goofy, dressing up and falling down as we turned corners. We had fun and we laughed. Andy had always been funny and loving. He had a warm heart and was always making jokes. Andy had requested that when he passed to donate to BeatSarcoma. To honor him, not as a cancer victim but as a fun and loving child, I would give to BeatSarcoma. I requested that my guests bring $10 to donate instead of presents. Andy had given us love and light and laughter and we should do the same. 

Even when he was in the hospital when last I saw him about a year ago, his spirit and bright smile touched my heart. My birthday party was not a celebration of my turning 17, but of Andy being with us. Instead of dwelling on what we lost, I saw what we gained while he was here. I remembered how we would play and laugh and giggle and be kids. Although sometimes that pang of grief strikes just the right place in my heart, the warmth from those memories tends to mend my heart after it has had its few moments of sorrow. 

Life is precious and should be treated protectively, but it’s not something we can't enjoy. You can have your birthday cake and eat it too. And although sometimes we might hit a few sour patches in the dough, that cake is still covered in icing and sprinkles. On February 12th 2009 from 9 to 11pm, everybody only saw the sprinkles. In the end we raised $635 for BeatSarcoma. But the true intent of my party was to remember Andy, to have fun and laugh.

Live, laugh and love! Life is too short not to…"

By Maria Sterrett with parental authorization

* Chorus lyrics from 'Dancing Queen' by ABBA


And thank you for being such an inspiration for us all.

The BeatSarcoma Team

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