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Athena Orchard comes from Leicester, England. She is a cheerful, pretty girl. Doing sports is one of her favorite hobbies, especially boxing. She watches over her 6 sisters and 3 brothers with utmost devotion. Just before Christmas, the 12-year-old discovers a bump on her head. She doesn’t think anything of it - until she collapses in the kitchen. The doctors give her the devastating diagnosis: bone cancer.
A shock for the 12-year-old and her family. During a 7-hour-long operation, doctors remove a tumor from her spinal column. Afterwards she undergoes a grueling regiment of chemo therapy. She loses her hair. Athena, who is normally overflowing with energy, is too weak to leave her bed. “She always remained optimistic and told me not to cry,” tells her mother Caroline. “We knew that the cancer was very aggressive … She fought for as long as she could.” But, shortly after her 13th birthday, she died surrounded by her family.
A couple days after Athena’s death, her father Dean packs up all of her belongings. As he removed her mirror from the wall, he discovered something on the back. It is inscribed from the top to the bottom. The words are a message from his dead daughter. “I couldn’t believe it. It was almost 3,000 words long,” Dean tells. “It totally blew me away. I started reading the words, but I had to stop after awhile, it was simply to much - it broke my heart.”
Athena’s handwritten goodbye was full of wisdom and comfort for those she left behind. Here are some excerpts from Athena’s emotional valediction:
No one knows how this girl found enough strength to write this message. “She never mentioned it, but it’s like her,” her father knows. “Athena was very profound. She loved to write, that was a part of her and had always made her happy.” Even though Athena no longer lives, she has made herself immortal through her words: “We will keep the mirror forever. Just reading her words makes it feel like she is still with us.”
Despite her illness, Athena never lost her ability to see the beauty in life. Her optimism manifests itself in her last thoughts, the thoughts the teenager wrote on the backside of her mirror. In this way, she was always aware of these words when she looked in the mirror and saw how the cancer changed her. With her mindset and strength, she is an inspiration for us all.