For Shay

I never met Shay, or spoke to her.  Now I never will.

I’ve never met her mother, either, but I’ve known her for seven years now.  We met on an Internet newsgroup, one that was started up by some renegades from the Stephen King newsgroup to talk about non-King related stuff.  It was a place to chat, to vent, and to get to know each other.  Missy told us about her two teenage daughters, Shay and Cassie.  Shay had been diagnosed with leukaemia when she was four or five – I can’t remember exactly.  Missy posted a quiet little piece she’d written about the experience of first finding out Shay had leukaemia – I wish I could find it on-line to link to, because it was a damn good piece of writing.  When Missy first started posting to the group, Shay’s leukaemia was in long-term remission – an ever-present lurking background threat, shadowing their lives with regular clinic visits and blood counts, but not an acute danger.  Her chances were very good.

When Shay relapsed and the only chance was a bone marrow transplant, we heard about it on the group.  When Cassie was tested and turned out to be a perfect match, we rejoiced with Missy.  When Shay went for the transplant, Missy posted regularly to let us know what was happening, each nail-biting day, until the transplant was successful and Shay started making healthy blood cells again.  We were overjoyed.  The start of a happy-ever-after for the family.  When Missy posted pictures of Shay in her ball dress at her high school prom, it was a beautiful moment.  When she relapsed again and Missy had to face the fact that she would probably only have a few months left with her daughter, it was devastating news. 

We knew it couldn’t be long, but… Shay had seemed to be doing better.  Then she crashed completely on holiday, just a few days after her blood tests had been looking very encouraging, and went into severe septic shock that ate her body inside and out.  If she’d lived, she would have lost her right hand and probably both feet.  She died yesterday morning.  She was in her early twenties.

I never knew Shay, but I wish I had.  And, my god, my heart goes out to Missy and Cassie today.

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