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Writing Assignment about Simon by Jennifer Sharpe

In her high school American Literature class, Jennifer Sharpe, a junior, was asked to write a paper about an event that had changed her life. She chose to write about Simon.

Simon Craig Vodosek

May 17, 1997- August 6, 2004

"Oww! Mommy!" Simon screamed.

That's when they knew it was something serious. It was the middle of November 2001, and Simon was four years old. He had been experiencing horrible pains in his leg, up to a point where he could no longer walk. Mary and Markus, Simon's mother and father, were very worried and took Simon in for a series of tests. On December 26, 2001, it all became too real. Simon was diagnosed with stage four of a high-risk neuroblastoma.

Beginning as soon as possible, December 29, Simon started chemotherapy. One cycle of chemotherapy lasts 21 days and starts with the infusion of cancer-fighting drugs. Within a week following the infusion Simon's blood cell counts would decrease to a level where he was unable to fight infections on his own and where he was weak and irritable. Around day 12 of a cycle, his blood counts started to go back up and he started to feel better. By the last week he was likely to be able to return to a normal daily routine. Simon also had to have surgery, stem cell transplants, MIBG therapy, monoclonal antibody therapy, and 13-cis-retinoic acid therapy.

During Simon's first chemo treatments, the nurses explained that there were "knives and balls" inside him, which represented his tumors. He told his mom one day, "Mommy, the medicine is there to take away the knives from the balls inside me, the knives that are cutting my bones." Simon always had a good, positive way to look at things. Even when his gorgeous, full, beautiful, curly brown hair began to fall out. He commented to his dad one day, "Daddy, do you know what's good about my hair falling out? . . . For it doesn't hang down in my face!"

In December 2002 Simon finally started kindergarten. It was always hard for Simon to be in school because of all his treatments, he missed a lot of school. He always tried though, when he was able to, he'd be in class, willing to learn and even teach people about his disease. Towards the end of kindergarten, in May and June of 2003, Simon was in New York at Memorial Sloan Kettering for 3F8 monoclonal antibody therapy.

Simon endured so much, and always stayed so strong. He was always on the go too, as soon as he returned back to his home in Ann Arbor, MI, they moved to Salt Lake City, UT in July 2003.

Simon started first grade in Salt Lake City, which normally, I think, would be hard and scary for kids. But Simon just loved life and everything about it. He didn't care that he was started at a new school, with a bunch of kids he didn't know. Simon went right in there and did what he always did, made friendships, had fun, amazed people, and touched many people's hearts.

In December, January, and March Simon and Mary went to the University of California, San Francisco for more specialized treatments. He returned to school in May 2004 and also turned seven on May 17, his third birthday since being diagnosed.

Then came the summer of 2004. Beginning rapidly in June his disease progressed with increasing pain and weakness. No matter what though, Simon always hung in there, with his unforgettable, gorgeous smile.

One night, when putting Simon to bed he said to his mom that, "my cancer is serious work." Then after the lights were out Simon, with his wonderful bright thoughts, said, "I think my cancer is all doing what the boss says."

Mary replied, "Who's the boss?"

"Maybe it's the first cell, the first one that grew wrong. That's the biggest one, and he tells everyone what to do. It feels like there's a battle going on in my body, and the cancer is ahead." Simon said that with his amazing wisdom.

In July 2004, Mary and Markus held a Celebration of Life Party for Simon. His disease was then progressing, and he slowed down more and more. Mary got a hospice nurse and once in a while she would try to talk with Simon about what would happen when he died. He didn't really like talking about it; sometimes he mentioned that he was scared. Simon was so brave, and so strong, you would never know it!

It was very hard for me, being across the country from the cutest, nicest, best little boy I have ever met. Especially when he was suffering from a horrible disease. I wish I could have seen him and spent more time with him. He was amazing.

Early in the morning, August 6, 2004, quietly, peacefully, in the arms of his loving family, Simon passed away. I was in South Dakota at the time with my church and when my mom told me, it was the first time I had ever really felt a broken heart.

There was a wonderful memorial service held for Simon. I was sadly not able to go, but my aunts and grandmother went. I received a bulletin from the service and read details about it on his web page.

I had known Simon since he was in his mommy's tummy. I saw him as a baby, to when he was a toddler, to a young, astonishing boy, struggling with something so powerful. To think he was only seven breaks my heart. I believe that God has a plan for everything, and even though it hurt so many people who loved Simon so much, God needed him with him, up in heaven. Now Simon is out of his pain, and having a good time watching over me, and everyone else. In a sense, he's not really gone; he lives on in me, and every single person he met. He had such an amazing soul that he shared with everyone, you fell in love with him right when you met him, and it is impossible to ever forget that great boy.

Simon taught me a new way to look at life, he never gave up, and he lived his life so full and so great. He showed me that it's okay to be scared because there are people who love you and will be with you through everything. Simon was a work of wonders, to say the least! I carry of picture of him in my wallet, and I have his picture framed on my desk and every morning, he reminds me to live my life to its fullest, and I know, and am so lucky, that someone, very special, is watching over me.

Jennifer Sharpe lives near Cleveland, Ohio. She is the granddaughter of Jane and Jeff Blodgett and the niece of Sally Olson and Barbara Blodgett. Jennifer, her parents, Rick and Laurie Sharpe, and her sister, Jill, have offered wonderful support to us during Simon's journey, and we have shared many family gatherings of Craigs and Blodgetts over the years.

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