For many years I served as a volunteer in the Pastoral Care Department of a hospital. I visited patients and talked with them, sometimes the nature of our conversations was spiritual, other times it was just about whatever was on their mind. There is one patient who will forever stand out in my mind. The day I went to enter her room in August of 2009, the head nurse told me I most likely wouldn’t have luck, she didn’t want visitors, and wasn’t talking to anyone. Her name was Sammy. She was 21.
I walked in and she asked me if I liked make up. Sure did. So she pulled out a giant box filled with every imaginable color of lipstick, blush, and eye shadow you can imagine. The door had been opened to let me in, and through it I went. She was diagnosed with Lymphoma when she was 18, and had undergone countless rounds of Chemotherapy but never went into remission. Her mother rarely came to visit her in the hospital, but her friends did. They traveled over an hour a few days a week and her hospital room would turn into a college dorm room. Laughter, antics, all while she was hooked up to a Morphine drip that should have had her flat out sleeping. I visited her everyday, we put on makeup, trying out new eye shadow colors and lipsticks. She loved lipstick that had a “sparkle” in it- she told me everyone needs a little sparkle in their life. She showed me the jewelry she had ordered online from her hospital bed, all the while telling the Doctors she would not leave the hospital until they agreed to give her a stem cell transplant. They kept telling her it would do no good, she was too weak, it made no sense. But she wouldn’t- couldn’t hear it. In one of the rare times she opened up to me, when the jewelry and the makeup and the laughter were put away, she said flat out It’s not fair, I’m supposed to be in college, going out with my friends, have a boyfriend. I’m not giving in, I’m entitled to have a life- I’m 21. There were no words I could say other than YOU ARE RIGHT. Her determination to live had kept her going longer than any of her doctors had predicted.
Sammy did get her stem cell transplant, and to the surprise of the doctors she did live for almost 2 months afterwards, but the fight was not won. She died in January of 2010. I learned so many lessons from this young girl that I still think of her often. Her determination, her unwillingness to give up, to fight, her ability to change her surroundings into something positive while spending months in a hospital room. Yes, she was cheated out of a life. She was right. But that short life left an impression on all those she touched, that will last our lifetime. And I still wear sparkly lipstick.