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  • When my classmates and I heard the news, about our friend’s cancer, a soul so beautiful we were all in utter disbelief. Some started to bawl while others hugged one another to make the horrific news feel a little better. I thought to myself, Why must such a talented, compassionate, and witty kid be given the news at such a young age that they have only a few years to live?

    Cancer. It is a single word that will break the hearts of families, friends, and peers. In 2006, Ethan Toohey was diagnosed with Desmoplastic Small Round Cell Tumor, an extremely rare and aggressive type of childhood cancer with a very low survival rate.

    Our relationship began in kindergarten during violin lessons. For both of us, it was a time where our interests meant nothing compared to what our parents wanted us to indulge in. During one of the lessons, Ethan asked me, “Danny, want to sneak out of here and go play basketball or something?” I smirked and said, “Meet me outside the bathroom in five minutes!” This was one of many times when Ethan and I were able to connect.

    During gym class in 8th grade, students were to complete a mile run. Ethan’s body at the time was frail. Regardless, Ethan didn’t say a word; he walked out to the track with everyone and completed the mile. A handful of Ethan’s closest friends, myself included, ran back to help him finish his last lap. As he ran towards the finish the line, the entire class erupted into spontaneous applause. Throughout my life there has been no one braver than Ethan.

    My final memory of Ethan was after freshmen year. A friend hosted a pool party and surprised us all when Ethan attended, even when he was at his worst. It was a perfect night, not a cloud in the sky and thousands of stars were visible. It was a magical evening spent talking and visiting around the fireplace, making us remember what it used to be like before Ethan was diagnosed.

    Ethan left the world on September 14th, 2011.

    I never heard him complain about why this tragic event had to happen to him. Anytime my friends or myself saw Ethan he immediately put a smile on our faces because he wanted everyone to realize how precious life really was and to not take it for granted. He tried his best to come to school everyday to hopefully learn something new while giving off an aura that was both inspiring and contagious. To this day, and for the rest of my life, I hope to share the same characteristics that my good friend Ethan had: courage, integrity, and tenacity.

    To cover his baldhead, Ethan wore his famous green Luigi hat everyday while he walked to class like everyone else, by his own power. Cancer, I learned the word early in my life.
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