Thoughts for the New Year

January 1, 2014
Topics: Cancer (oncology)

I have always struggled when asked if I have a hero. There are many people I admire, but the idea ofhaving a hero never quite resonated for me.

The first time I "met" Maddy we were producing a video of the Riley Cancer Center Prom. I saw her dancing with her sister, mother and father with what can only be described as complete joy.

Over the next six months we were privileged to film Maddy several times so that we could share her story at the 2012 Riley Annual Luncheon. But ending the filming could never have meant ending my connection to Maddy.

Maddy experienced excruciating pain as she received chemotherapy for her leukemia and then underwent a bone marrow transplant. Her leukemia returned and she went through it all again for a second transplant. When she relapsed this fall she had even more chemotherapy and radiation.

Through it all Maddy was the same Maddy: happy, positive, smart, funny and profoundly kind. She always thought of others before herself.

Maddy maintained a personal journal that speaks much more eloquently to her strength than I ever could. This is what this extraordinary girl, who was then 14, wrote last August.

Time. What is it exactly? It's not real. Humans made it up to make sense of night and day...It's kind of hard to grasp hold of the idea. People say life is short. But they don't understand that it is the longest thing we have. There are many times where I want time to freeze so I can live in the moment a little longer. But do humans have a clue of what they want?...We better appreciate life while it lasts. We should watch the sunsets more often, go out more often, let loose more often, and not worry more often. We have one shot on Earth. One shot to prove to God you belong to Him. One shot to breathe in all the beauty on Earth. One shot, that's all we've got

Maddy passed away peacefully in her home the day after Thanksgiving, surrounded by her parents, Marizel and Tim, and her sister and best friend Melanie. Maddy had known for several weeks that she would die soon. She reassured her family that she was not afraid and lived those days fully and with joy: enjoying a steak dinner, seeing the musical Wicked and going to a movie and eating buttery popcorn - things she hadn't been able to do since being diagnosed almost two years ago.

A few days before she passed away, Maddy's parents brought her to Riley Hospital to receive platelets. Her mother Marizel contacted me to see if I could come visit her there. When I arrived Maddy was sleeping. When she woke up I could see the pain in her eyes. I reached over to move a blanket over her leg and she cringed just slightly. I apologized and then we continued our typical conversation. Me telling her how much I loved the stylish scarf and colorful socks she was wearing. Her smiling and telling me about new socks some friends had given her. Before I left, I told her that I loved her; she replied that she loved me; we hugged and soon she was drifting back to sleep.

Later that afternoon Marizel told me that when Maddy woke up first comment was, "I hope Maureen didn't feel bad about pulling the blanket. She didn't know about my legs. I don't want her to feel bad."

I have a hero.

Her name is Maddy Justice.

She had the kindest heart of anyone I've ever met. Nothing she endured ever changed that about her. Maddy's motto was "Keep on Shining."

She shined every day of her life and she shined her amazing light on all who knew her or knew her through others.

You are right, Maddy; we've got one shot. Let's promise each other we'll make it count.

Watch Maddy's video from the 2012 Riley Annual Luncheon

Maureen Manier

Maureen Manier is Vice President of Communications and Marketing at Riley Children's Foundation.

comments powered by Disqus

Browse More Blog Posts

View Blog Posts by Category
Sign up for Riley Blog Emails