Selfless in Adversity

22 Feb

Athena: Living Life to the full
She was just a 12-year-old school-girl enjoying life to the full in Leicester when life suddenly changed for her. When Athena Orchard knew she wouldn’t survive her bone cancer diagnosis, she wrote a 3,000-word inspirational secret message, using a black marker, at the back of her bedroom mirror. The mirror was always kept leaning against the wall and so the family never noticed that she had written those soul-searching words at the back.

At Christmas, 2012, Athena collapsed at home and was diagnosed with osteosarcoma (one of the most common types of bone cancer) in December 2013 when they found a lump on her head. The malignant bone tumour affected her spine, left shoulder and head. In the following months, she underwent intense chemotherapy. She had to have a seven-and-a-half-hour operation to remove the tumour on her spine and wore a wig to cover her hair-loss.

Her father, Dean, who discovered this positive message a few days after she had passed away, admits that he was ‘blown away’ by it. He told the local paper, Leicester Mercury, ‘I started reading it but before long I had to stop because it was too much. It was heartbreaking.’

He also stumbled upon a bundle of self-penned songs. Her mirror writings and her songs detail the innermost feelings of a girl who had put up a courageous fight for her life.

Athena: the impact of her words
Dean, 33, said of the note, ‘She never mentioned her mirror message, but it’s the kind of thing she’d do. She was a very spiritual person, she’d go on about stuff that I could never understand – she was so clever.’

Athena left behind six sisters and three brothers. But her mother, Caroline, 37, said that the mirror-note Athena bequeathed the family will help ensure that her memory stays very much alive.
‘We’re keeping the mirror forever. It is a part of her we can keep in the house. It will always be in her room,’ she said. ‘Just reading her words felt like she was still here with us. She had such an incredible spirit.’

When she finally passed away, at just 13, on May 28, 2014 she left a family reeling from the awesome power of her selfless realism, encapsulated in her stoic acceptance of suffering and her moving words. Her life just raced by faster than those around her could even realize the beauty of the wonderful soul that had enriched their lives. Some of her words ring true, ‘You know my name, not my story.’ She suffered in silence, all through the intense chemotherapy, fully appreciative of the time life gave her, constantly concerned more about those around her than about herself.

The poignant words written by a dying teenage cancer victim on the back of her bedroom mirror have touched the hearts and minds of millions of people worldwide. The 1,000-word message of 13-year-old Athena Orchard, of New Parks, Leicester (England) has become headline news all over the world. Newspapers, websites and television channels in many countries have retold the story of Athena’s message from beyond the grave. Athena’s mum, Caroline Orchard, said she felt proud and humbled that her daughter’s words have touched and inspired so many.

Athena’s Message: in her own words
(Extracts from the lengthy yet inspiring message she left for her family and friends):
On Happiness
*Happiness depends upon ourselves. Maybe it’s not about the happy ending, maybe it’s about the story.
*The purpose of life is a life of purpose. The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.
*Happiness is a direction not a destination. Thank you for existing. Be happy, be free, believe, forever young. You know my name, not my story.
On Love
*Love is like glass, looks so lovely but it’s easy to shatter.
*Love is rare, life is strange, nothing lasts and people change.
*If someone loves you, then they wouldn’t let you slip away no matter how hard the situation is. Remember that life is full of ups and downs.
*Love is not about how much you say I love you – it’s about how much you can prove it’s true.
* Love is like the wind, you can feel it but you can’t see it.
* I’m waiting to fall in love with someone I can open my heart to.
*Love is not about who you can see spending your future with. It’s about who you can’t see spending your life without.
* Life is a game for everyone but love is the prize. Only I can judge me.
*Sometimes love hurts. Now I’m fighting myself. Baby I can feel your pain.
On Steadfastness and Purpose
*Every day is special, so make the most of it, you could get a life ending illness tomorrow so make the most of every day. Life is only bad if you make it bad.
*Dreams are my reality. It hurts but it’s okay, I’m used to it.
*You have heard what I’ve done, but not what I’ve been through.
*Never give up on something you can’t go a day without thinking about. I want to be that girl who makes the bad days better and the one that makes you say my life has changed since I met her!
*Don’t be quick to judge me. You only see what I choose to show you… you don’t know the truth. I just want to have fun and be happy without being judged.
*This is my life, not yours. Don’t worry about what I do.
*People gonna hate you, rate you, break you, but how strong you stand, that’s what makes you… you!
*There’s no need to cry because I know you’ll be by my side.

[Extracts and facts taken from Leicester Mercury, and online sites of The Metro, The Telegraph and Caters News Agency, with some comment credits to A.Troughton, P.Warzynski, H.Whitehouse & P.Boucher.]
–Edited and written by T.D’Souza for TRODZA blog : 22.02.15

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One Response to “Selfless in Adversity”

  1. tastom February 24, 2015 at 4:14 am #

    Just read and was moved by the courageous words of Athena…what a saint at the tender age of 13…..she must be smiling at us and remembering us ….God bless her.. Tommy:-) 24.2.2015

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