Cancer is a heartbreaking, life-stealing disease that affects millions of people worldwide. No matter what, it is a sad day when a person is diagnosed with cancer, but there’s nothing more devastating than when that person is a child. This story is about a little girl who was diagnosed with cancer, but instead of allowing it to consume every part of her, she used the illness to leave behind a legacy.It was just before Christmas in 2013, and just like most children, Athena Orchard, a beautiful 13-year-old girl, was full of holiday spirit in Leicester, England. Amidst the excitement, Athena suddenly collapsed onto the floor.
Athena’s parents brought her to the hospital to try to figure out what it was that caused her to collapse out of nowhere. Unfortunately, they received heartbreaking news from the doctors. Sadly, Athena was diagnosed with a type of bone cancer known as osteosarcoma and she needed to go into surgery immediately.
Despite the devastating news that the doctors had given her, Athena refused to let go of her positive attitude. “She was always positive, even when she was in the hospital she would be looking after me, making sure I ate and telling me not to cry,” explained Athena’s mother, Caroline.
The doctors immediately brought Athena to the operating room, where they spent 7.5 hours removing the tumors that covered the young girl’s shoulders, spine, and head. After the surgery, she would have to endure many months of chemotherapy. But soon enough, Athena was back home with her family, ready to put in everything she had to beat the illness threatening to claim her life.
Like most cancer patients going through chemo, Athena had lost all of her hair and almost all of her strength battling the debilitating effects of the chemotherapy that was given to her after the surgery. To make the time pass, Athena wrote songs, putting all of her emotions into her writing.
“She was a very spiritual person. She’d go on about stuff that I could never understand–she was so clever,” said her father, Dean Orchard. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be until Athena’s health continued to decline that was when her parents would see just how clever their daughter truly was.
Surrounded by her parents, her six sisters, and her three brothers, Athena passed away on May 28th. Heartbroken, the family mourned the loss of their Athena. But shortly after her passing, Dean found something amazing…
While Dean was looking through his daughter’s things, he moved a mirror that was leaning up against the wall in her bedroom. He was immediately shocked by what he saw. On the backside of the mirror were three thousand handwritten words.
“I couldn’t believe it. I saw all this writing…It’s so touching. When I first saw it, it just blew me away,” said Dean. Apparently, Athena had written the long note while she was at the height of her battle with cancer. Because of what the young girl was going through at the time, her raw emotion could be seen throughout the entire thing.
“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. You have heard what I’ve done, but not what I’ve been through.”
“Love is like glass, looks so lovely but it’s easy to shatter. Love is rare, life is strange, nothing lasts and people change. 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. 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.”
“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! 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. Dreams are my reality. It hurts but it’s okay, I’m used to it. 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.”
The family was obviously shocked and taken over by the emotional integrity of the letter. For such a young person, Athena was able to perfectly describe the ups and downs of life and happiness with a positive mindset. Naturally, Dean couldn’t even read the letter out loud without breaking down into tears.
“It’s so touching. She never mentioned it, but it’s the kind of thing she’d do,” Said Dean. “Just reading her words felt like she was still here with us; she had such an incredible spirit,” added Caroline.
After Athena passed from this world, her friends and family stopped by the home of the Orchards in Leicester. Without thinking twice, they began to scribble their own positive messages on the windows.
Athena Orchard’s life was cut short, but her words and her memory lives on in so many people. Just you reading this is keeping Athena’s memory alive. It truly is such a sad thing to happen to such a bright, young soul, but thanks to her loving spirit, her family will be able to keep her close forever.