A lifetime forever impacted by a special friend

         Connor Tait Cruse was my best friend. Our friendship began on the very first of school in Pre-K 4. I remember walking in and seeing a little boy with a shiny bald head and a smile from ear to ear; I knew we had to be friends. We spent the entirety of the day getting in trouble for talking and giggling with each other, but that did not stop us. I laughed more in ten minutes with Connor than I had my whole life, and I knew we shared a special connection.  Little did I know at the time, not only was I meeting my best friend but the person that would change my life forever.

The next four years of my relationship with Connor were filled with love, laughter, pain, relief, heartbreak, and every emotion in between. As his diagnosis worsened and his treatments increased countless times, I found myself overcome by hopelessness and fear at the thought of losing my best friend. Ironically the only person that could quiet that fear was Connor. His unwavering courage in the battle for his life is where I found my strength. Connor’s incredible humor also never failed to turn my worries into laughter. 

It has now been eleven years since Connor went to be in heaven. For many years following Connor’s death, I bottled up all my emotions and grief. The pain and heartbreak I felt was so overwhelming, my only method of survival was to shove it all back down. This meant even blocking out my good memories of Connor, memories meant to help me heal but at the time only made me miss him more. I remember feeling this constant anger burning inside me, demanding answers to why God would put such a light on this earth like Connor just to take him away. Not being able to get past the “why did this happen” restricted me from developing further perspective on Connor’s death. I had to come to terms with the fact that I would never get an answer or maybe not an answer that I wanted. With this realization, the anger that once consumed me began to fade and I was finally able to begin true healing.

I would think about if Connor could see what I had become, someone filled with such anger at life, he would be so upset with me. Connor was given months to live at the age of five, yet not once did he allow his cancer to strip him of his passion for life and love for anyone and everyone. I let Connor and myself down by allowing losing him to take away my love and replace it with anger. Thankfully, with a lot of hard work and a great counselor I slowly got back to be the girl Connor loved. However, that little girl did not have the strength I have today. Whatever life wants to throw at me I know I will be able handle it. I also have such a gratitude for life that I would not feel without my relationship with Connor. He taught me that our days on Earth are not guaranteed and every day is an opportunity to bring love and light into the world. The memories of Connor I pushed to the back of my mind no longer cause me pain, but instead fill my heart with such joy and thankfulness for getting to be a part of his life.

Today, I look at Connor’s legacy and am overjoyed by the numerous ways in which his spirit lives on. TeamConnor Childhood Cancer Foundation was created based on Connor’s wish that other kids would not have to endure the same insufficient pediatric cancer treatments that he did. The incredible impact and countless lives TeamConnor have and will change for the better is exactly the beautiful legacy Connor deserves. I reflect back on my high school graduation and how the entire graduating class wore green ribbons in honor of Connor. I think about the beautiful tree that was planted in honor of Connor at Prestonwood Christian Academy. These are just a few examples of ways that all the way in heaven, Connor’s light continues to shine.

Although losing Connor was the hardest experience of my life, I am eternally grateful for the person I am today because of it. Connor taught me to be strong, courageous, love always, not forget to laugh, and most importantly have faith in God. Getting to be a part of Connor’s life was an incredible gift and I will treasure it in my heart always. I know I will see Connor again one day, running freely and healthy through the streets of heaven, but until that day I will continue to make my best friend proud by living by his motto, “Be brave and believe in Jesus”.

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Did You Know

Building awareness of childhood cancer is critical to funding and finding a cure. To help, please consider sharing teamconnor.org on your Facebook.

Today, 46 children will be diagnosed with cancer.  Seven will lose their battle.

Did you know September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month!

Every day in America, approximately 46 children are diagnosed with cancer.

Childhood cancer does not discriminate, sparing no ethnic group, socio-economic class, or geographic region.

Rhabdomyosarcoma is the most common soft tissue sarcoma in children, accounting for about 3% of childhood cancers.

On average, 1 in every 4 elementary schools has a child with cancer.

About one-third of childhood cancers are leukemias.

Childhood cancer survival rates in the United States have increased from less than 20% in the 1960s to almost 80% today.

Cancer kills more children each year than Asthma, Cystic Fibrosis, Diabetes, and Pediatric AIDS combined.

Childhood cancer is not one disease entity, but rather a spectrum of different malignancies. Cancers found in children are biologically different from those seen in adults.

1 in 300 children will develop cancer before age 20.

Neuroblastoma is the most common extra cranial solid tumor cancer in children.

Today, up to 75% of the children with cancer can be cured, yet, some forms of childhood cancers have proven so resistant to treatment that, in spite of research, a cure is illusive.

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