Bayleigh won First Prize Winner in the 2015 Andre Sobel Award. Her essay, Letter from Boyfriends, is her highly personal response to our invitation for teens to submit “The Letter I Wish I had Received from a Friend or Relative When I Was Ill.”
I am writing you this letter in hopes of somehow mending your broken heart. I know you will have your family for you throughout this journey, but I also know that from age 9 to 17, you will have a lot of relationship needs. Someone besides your family to reassure you and tell you it is all going to be okay. Someone to listen to all your fears and anxieties, someone to love you in spite of everything that is going to happen to you, someone to just hold you in silence, just because they knew you needed it.
So I want to try to explain on behalf of myself and all the other guys you will fall in love with that couldn’t find a way to love you back. The shallowest of us will be intimidated by your bald head, your wig, or your weight gain from the steroids you will be on. You know self image is very important to teenagers, so it is hard to accept you looking that way. You won’t be ugly, you just won’t look like the other girls in our grade.
If we could only look on the inside we could connect with your beautiful soul.
Sometimes it is because we are afraid. Why would we want to get close to you, knowing that your situation was so unpredictable? Seeing you go through the cancer, surgeries, chemo, and radiation. We won’t feel strong enough to love you for fear of losing you, so we won’t even try. Shame on us.
So many of us will know you before you are diagnosed and we will miss your personality. We will miss that happy go lucky, spontaneous, funny, active girl. Now suddenly you are going to seem frail, sick, tired and slow.
I apologize that we will not take the time to slow down and make you feel loved or wanted, I know it would have meant the world to you.
Unfortunately unlike the movie “The Fault in our Stars”, in the real world it is very unlikely for someone to fall in love with a young girl that will be on treatment for 8 years. You will be a ticking time bomb, but if we could put any thought into it… aren’t we all? We could get hit by a car tomorrow.
To sum it up for you, we are so sorry. All of the above excuses kept us from looking past the cancer, chemo and side effects and kept us from getting to know the real you. Those things kept us from knowing what a really special, unique and talented young lady you are. I wish we had been better friends to you, and reached out when you needed us most.
If we had asked you to one dance, or one date, or one event, it might have made you feel more accepted by the male population at our school.
But please don’t be discouraged, because God has somebody picked out just for you. The timing has just not been right for you to notice our true love just yet.
The Boyfriends you won’t have for the next eight years
In 2006, Bayleigh was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. One hundred twenty five weeks of chemotherapy, five weeks of radiation, and multiple surgeries followed. She has been in remission for a year now, and says, “there was a time in my life when so much felt out of reach that I take each day as it comes and use it to the best of my ability.” Bayleigh loves the saying, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it is about learning to dance in the rain.”