72: Simon Says...

72: Simon Says...

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Middle School

Simon Says...

There are some defeats more triumphant than victories.

~Michel de Montaigne

It was the first day of summer. I was done with elementary school, and I was on top of the world. My best friends and I lay sprawled in my front yard, the gentle sun warming our backs, the grass tickling the bottoms of our feet, ice cream dripping from our cones onto our grinning faces. In my mind, it couldn’t get better than this. As I drifted into a lazy nap, I vaguely heard my mother’s high heels clicking down our front walk. I sat up, expecting lemonade or something of the sort. She was carrying no drinks, but her face was just as sour.

“Al,” she pointed towards our house, “I’ve got to talk to you.”

I usually know when something’s wrong. I get a sinking feeling in my stomach, and my throat feels as if it’s closing. Sometimes this feeling can be helpful, but right then, I wished things had been left unknown.

“Ali...” my mom sighed as we approached the front door. “Simon has leukemia.”

Simon Sharp is my stepfather’s nephew. Even though we aren’t related by blood, Simon was one of the most amazing people I had ever met and meant more to me than any blood relative ever could. In some ways, he was a normal teenage boy—he loved video games, pizza, all the normal teenage stuff. But he was more special than that. He liked to ride his bike around Celebration, Florida—playing his saxophone at the same time. He ate his pizza covered in mustard. He was the kind of person who is impossible to forget once you meet him.

I stopped in my tracks. The lump in my throat got bigger and my stomach got heavier. My eyes shone with disbelief. “But he’ll live, right?” I whimpered.

“There’s no way to know for sure. He has a pretty rare case though,” my mom tried to fake a smile. “Don’t worry.”

I guess my perfect summer wasn’t so perfect after all.

Day by day, Simon seemed to be getting weaker. His appetite sometimes vanished for long periods of time. The doctors tried countless treatments, but each resulted in a worse reaction than the one before. Throughout his treatment, Simon suffered anaphylactic shock and two strokes, all because of the medication that was supposed to be helping him.

Somehow, with all of the odds against him, Simon went into remission, which is sort of like a break from the cancer. We were hopeful, knowing it might even lead to a full recovery. The whole family was thrilled. Sadly, he relapsed about a year later.

It was around then that we had received our “Simon Says...” T-shirts. On the front, in big blue letters, it read, “Simon Says...” and when you turned it over it read, “Cancer is a detour, not a stop sign.” I proudly sported it at sleepovers and wore it all around my house. Somehow, that sentence showed me that no matter how hard the cancer fought against him, Simon and his loving family would do whatever it took to push right through it. We wouldn’t give up. What impacted me even more is that it referred not only to Simon’s battle, but to everyone’s who has ever had a seemingly impossible challenge in their lifetime.

Not too long after we got our shirts, Simon came down with pneumonia. Because of the chemotherapy, his body couldn’t fight it off. In his final days, Simon’s twin sister, Sophie, wouldn’t leave his bed, just like when they were infants still in the crib. On November 14, 2007, when he was just fifteen years old, Simon Sharp passed away.

Simon touched countless people with his unique personality, kind soul, and extreme persistence even in his time of need. It was hard for everyone to let go, but somehow we were able to. I think it’s because we can wear our T-shirts everywhere we go and proudly say, “Simon Says...”

~Ali Edelson

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