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September 22, 2018

Man shares a touching story about his daughter's difficult struggle with cancer

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Tom Mitchell, from the Washington, D.C., shared a heartbreaking story about his daughter Shayla's battle with cancer.

Mitchell's daughter died of Hodgkins Lymphoma at the age of 18 nine years ago. According to the 51-year-old father, before Shayla was diagnosed, she had told him that she hasn't been feeling too well and that she thought she might have a sinus infection.

"It turns out my daughter’s sinus infection was anything but; it was actually a huge cancerous tumor that had been taking up two-thirds of her little chest. It had caused one of her lungs to collapse," Mitchell said.

When he took Shayla to the hospital, the doctors told him that his daughter had Stage 4 Hodgkin’s disease. Follow us on our Twitter account, @amomama_usa, to learn more.

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"I had to become braver than I ever thought possible… I had to have a really tough conversation with a very scared 16-year-old girl," he said. "I wound up purchasing two sterling silver ‘feather’ bracelets from an American Indian art store near the hospital, a small feminine bracelet for Shayla and a larger one for myself."

The two spent many nights in the hospital the next couple of years.

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"One morning as we were walking to the car on the way to the chemotherapy clinic something happened that rocked me deep in the core of my bones and will probably haunt me for the rest of my days… The pacemaker/defibrillator they had installed to keep her heart rhythms correct and safe began to malfunction," Mitchell said.

Shayla was screaming that it was "shocking her."

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"The [expletive] thing was hitting her with powerful jolts of electricity designed to restart someone’s heart if it stops beating. But she was wide awake, and her little heart was beating just fine all on its own," he said.

Mitchell pulled his daughter close and just held her as tightly as he could.

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"So, once again, she and I talked about the wind and about feathers and about being brave…" he said. "There was to be still more chemotherapy and more blood transfusions and more nights in the hospital and more heart surgeries."

Despite the failed bone marrow transplant, Shayla never quit fighting. Unfortunately, the day came when the doctors told Mitchell that there was nothing else they could do.

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"A few days later my daughter Shayla lost her battle with childhood cancer. She fought hard and she fought bravely," he said. "Today I rarely talk about the wind… and I seldom talk about feathers… but I talk a great deal about a little girl I once knew, and about the importance of being brave."

After Shayla passed away, Mitchell decided to start his nonprofit organization, the Stillbrave Childhood Cancer Foundation, which provides non-medical assistance to families whose children are battling cancer.

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