Dad writes heartbreaking open letter after losing daughter to cancer


People often get sick during the winter months. It is also common for people to put off going to the doctors or the hospital, particularly if all they’re experiencing is coughing.

We have all been there before. You get sick, take time to rest and gradually get better.

However, if your symptoms persist and you feel sick for a prolonged period of time, then it might well be a good idea to at least call a health care helpline and ask for advice.

Whilst it’s true that normally your body is strong enough to fight off flu and colds without medical intervention, in some cases the cough you’re experiencing can be down to something far more sinister than a mere virus.

16-year-old Shayla Mitchell didn’t feel quite right and was suffering from a cough that refused to go away. At first, she thought she might have contracted sinusitis.

One day, however, the situation became so serious that she asked her father, Tom, if he could take her to see a doctor.

He gladly accepted, and the next day after school he picked his daughter up and drove her to the hospital. They even planned to eat something later.

Shayla was examined and the doctor left the room for a while. When he returned, he did so with a message that would change her life forever.

Shayla had such a large cancerous tumor that it took up almost two-thirds of her breasts. It had even caused one of her lungs to collapse, which was why she had been feeling sick for so long and couldn’t stop coughing.

Despite this news, Shayla and her father decided to continue dinner, but of course, they had to have it in the hospital instead of a restaurant. At that time, they did not know that the next 450 meals would be taken in the pediatric oncology unit at Fairfax Hospital.

Shayla had advanced Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and the prognosis wasn’t good.

Tom decided to make a gesture to show his daughter that she would always have his support. He went to a store and bought a matching bracelet for each of them, promising he would wear his every day until Shayla beat cancer.

Over the next few years, Tom spent hundreds of nights with his daughter while they battled the terrible disease together.

Shayla endured hundreds of tests, blood transfusions, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and a cardiac arrest… but she never stopped fighting.

For Tom, it was agony. He held his daughter’s hair while she vomited, cried with her, laughed with her, and was brave with her.

Then, the day came when doctors accepted they could do nothing more for Shayla. Her body wasn’t responding to treatment and a bone marrow transplant had failed.

Here’s what Tom wrote on the Love What Matters Facebook page:

“How in the world was I supposed to have this conversation with my darling daughter?” he wrote. “How in the world was I going to be brave enough to tell my daughter she was going to die? I once heard a quote that sort of sums things up for me. “Can a man still be brave if he is afraid? … That is the only time he CAN be brave.”

“I knew I had to be brave for HER! I did, of course, have that conversation with her, and as unbelievable as this may sound it turned out to be the most amazing, beautiful, magical, wonderful conversation I’ve ever had in my entire life, and one that I hope you NEVER EVER have to have…”

For when Tom had finished talking, his daughter whispered back: “Am I still brave Dad?”

It was then that Tom looked back into his little girl’s eyes and saw how much pain she was in. She’d been fighting for so long, and he realized it wasn’t for her, but for him.

A few days later, Shayla passed away. Tom was devastated, but he knew one thing for sure: Shayla had fought hard and long – she had fulfilled her promise and was brave until the end.


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