This personal narrative is about a young man named Sam Featherstone. I talk about the situations I see around me changing because of his dilemma. I see how a community can really come together for one another in times of need. I also talk about how he personally affects my life and my view on things.
Senior year of high school was by far the best year of my life. It was the point in my life where everything seemed to be coming together and I started to figure out what I wanted in life and how I could possibly get there. On top of that, senior year had so many fun activities to experience. I got to attend my Senior Prom, help plan homecoming week, graduate from high school, move away from my parent’s rules and nagging, and have the best summer of my life with all of my high school friends. I know senior year for me was the most memorable and exciting year of high school. Not only was my senior year amazing, but the three preceding years were filled with joy and experiences I will never forget.
I was what you could call the average high school student. I was an A student, on a sports team, a member of various clubs and got along well with most people. I never had to face any major struggles or setbacks. My family was well off, I stayed out of trouble, and never experienced any tragedies that disrupted my daily routines. My four years of high school went by day by day until graduation and then I left for college. Looking back I never realized how easy I had it. My biggest worries included what I was going to wear out on a Saturday night or if I passed my last Calculus test.
However, it occurred to me that those around me didn’t have it as easy as I had it. One of my classmates, Sam Featherstone, was diagnosed with brain cancer on September 11, 2009. At this time in his life he was just a 15 year old boy, a naïve sophomore in high school. He was a straight A student, a varsity cross country runner and a quiet kid with many friends. At this point in time I had no idea how much this man would and could impact my life. His story is truly a roller coaster of emotions that no human should ever have to go through. On that dreary day in September he was diagnosed with Medulloblastoma, a type of brain cancer which can be diagnosed terminal. After a year of chemotherapy and radiation treatment Sam received wonderful news that he was now cancer-free. Throughout this period Sam fought day in and day out, losing his hair, not being able to eat regularly, which caused him to lose an abnormal amount of weight. All the physical battles aside, Sam managed to finish out his sophomore of high school and maintain his 6.0 his entire junior year. He came to class whenever he could and when he was away from treatment he did his homework online. One day while taking a make-up test in the hallway, I heard some teachers having a conversation about Sam.
“So, Mrs. Kelly, how were the scores from your Spanish quiz yesterday?”
“They were alright. I’m not sure if I’m a bad teacher or what but the only 100% on the quiz came from someone who wasn’t even here to learn the material.”
“I’m assuming that was Mr. Featherstone?”
“Yes. You know he is the only student that could do that.”
As I sat there over hearing the conversation, I couldn’t help but think to myself how incredible that was. He didn’t even attend class and still managed to do better than the class. I couldn’t maintain a 6.0 going to class every day and here was Sam, a junior with brain cancer, going above and beyond all of our classmates. Unfortunately, at the beginning of his senior summer he went in for his usual appointments and the doctor had to explain to him that his cancer has returned and that he was going to die.
I cannot imagine the flood of emotions Sam’s mind encountered when those words, “You are going to die” processed through the doctors mouth. I can only picture the blood draining from his already pale face, his mouth hanging wide open, and his body limp unable to make a move because from that moment on, his life was never going to be the same again. Every dream, every aspiration he had for his future was gone in a blink of an eye.
It’s a situation like this that makes me realize how different my life could be and how one day everything could suddenly change. I see it happen hundreds of times a week, a tragic drunk driving accident, natural disasters, shootings all are which dramatizing events that change people’s lives forever. But since I’m invincible, ordinary 18 year old college student, nothing like this could ever happen to me, or at least that’s what I’ve been telling myself for the past eighteen years and will probably continue to tell myself until the day it does actually catch up to me. But given Sam and his story, I have a new sense of light by which to live my life by.
A song lyric that I think is a wonderful representation of my new viewpoint on life comes from a song by Carrie Underwood called so small.
“’Cause sometimes that mountain you’ve been climbing is just a grain of sand.”
How I interpret this is, no matter what the issue I have at hand is, in the big scheme of things it is really irrelevant doesn’t need to be fret upon. My everyday problems are truly grains of sand and aren’t comparable to situations such as Sam’s or starvation in third world countries.
Sam’s situation also makes me so thankful and grateful for the life I have been blessed to have. God gave me the ability to walk, talk, think, and be an independent human being. I tend to find myself appreciating the small things way more often and paying closer attention to things that others often look past. When walking to classes or to get food I like to look at how the leaves fall of the trees and blow in the wind. Sitting in my room at night watching the leaves is such a calming experience..I know I may sound like freak or a nut case but I dare you to try it sometime. Try to imagine that you only had a few months to live, I guarantee you would look at the world a little bit different. Another difference I made in my life was to take a step back and enjoy the moment that God has given me. My days and weeks used to run by faster than I liked them too, but now since I decided to live in the moment, I find myself enjoying every day more and more and it seems as there are more hours in the day than before. I am a truly happier person since I made my life changes.
I honestly believe that sometimes things such as natural disasters or helpless children dying young are supposed to be a message from God saying, life is too short, seize the moments you have while they are in front of you. I don’t think humans truly apply the traumatizing events of other’s lives to their own. I used to just listen to the horrifying stories, wondering why this happens to people and then continue about my everyday life. However, I decided that after hearing stories of my previous classmates committing suicide off building tops, just throwing their perfect life away, while people like Sam are fighting for every second of their lives, that something major had to change in my life, I couldn’t keep taking my close-to-perfect live for granted. I believe this change is a result of these traumatizing events happening to people that I knew so well.
I come from a tight knit high school, the kind where everyone knows everything about everyone. Since everyone is so close the entire school is honestly one big family. When Sam was diagnosed with cancer we became a “SamStrong” family. Whenever Sam gets good news the entire school is thankful and prays to God to continue to guide him. Likewise, whenever Sam gets terrible news the entire school is there right behind him. We made Sam Strong t-shirts that people could buy and bracelets with that saying on it to raise money to help Sam get better. Like I mentioned earlier, Sam was a member of the cross country team, so whenever the team found out Sam had cancer they made Sam Strong bracelets to wear while they ran, in honor of Sam. These bracelets were a huge hit because after the school saw them, everyone wanted one. Students then came up with the idea to make the T-shirts. The day Sam’s cancer returned, the Principle allowed the entire school to wear our Sam Strong shirts to school the next day and since we have uniforms it was really incredible to see the whole school behind Sam in his shirts.
A couple weeks ago I remember getting on my twitter, in between doing some homework, when I open it to find the entire feed about Sam. My first thought was, “Oh no, what has happened now?” I couldn’t think of what could be worse than what he has already been through. I immediately called one of my closest friends from high school to find out what was going on, and that’s when I heard it, Sam Featherstone was now paralyzed from the waist down. I couldn’t believe it, I almost burst out into tears. I just kept thinking over and over, why do bad things happen to such good people? What has Sam done to deserve this? Not only was his future taken from him but now his ability to walk. How wonderful walking must have been the evening before he woke up unable to move his legs. This just seemed surreal. How this could happen to Sam after everything astonished me and there was only one thing I could do to help, I could pray. I’ve been praying for Sam this entire time but more often these past few weeks. They gave him a couple months to live and his future is truly unknown, but I know that whatever happens to Sam he will fight his heart out until his final moments with us.
Sam Featherstone is one of the most courageous and outstanding persons I know. He has so much fight and determination to get better and beat this cancer. Although the outcome of his future is unknown, he continues to try and live a regular as possible life as he can. I urge myself to live for Sam. Something so simple as walking was taken away, something so fun such as planning the vacation spot for next summer may not be available for Sam. I need to live in such a way that every little thing matters and has meaning. Sam is an inspiration and a gift to me and everyone that knows him. I can see my future, bright and enjoyable. But I know that at any moment anything can change. My future is truly unpredictable, I have ideas and hopes for what will happen but I know I can’t bank on anything happening. Life, as I have learned, has so many unexpected obstacles on our perfect route to success.
This is a website that gives a little background information about Sam, and also some news about his upcoming fundraiser.