The strong one.

It’s been almost three years. You know me by now. You know I love to laugh and you know how very much I hate to cry. You also know what makes me laugh and you know what makes me cry.

Sick kids make me cry. Always. So yeah, last Sunday, I read this article about 18-year old John Challis. Did you?

By the time I was done, my newspaper was covered with giant spots of wetness. Possibly a leak in the roof, but most likely a leak in my eyeballs.

I wasn’t going to write about it because there’s not much I can say. But then my sister emailed me the link today, not realizing I already had my heart ripped out by the story, but hey, thanks for REMINDING ME! Because is there anything more gut-wrenching than a son apologizing to his father because he couldn’t beat cancer?

As I said. Nothing I can say, nothing I can do. I just wanted you guys to be aware of this young Burgher and his amazing amazing bravery and perhaps his even more amazing maturity.

A wise man once said, “Life ain’t about how many breaths you take. It’s what you do with those breaths.”

And that wise man is this young kid, John Challis.

So yeah, read it. Just realize you’ll be left with questions with no answers and bleeding emotions with no salve.


  1. Sooska
    May 8, 2008 11:10 am

    yep. me and my husband too. We had along talk about it. What remarkable courage that young man has. Holy HELL! WHY??? no answers.

    May 8, 2008 11:19 am

    WARNING: Don’t read at work. You will have tears streaming down your face and your officemates will keep asking, “Are you okay?”

    An amazing kid, no doubt.

  3. Evil Twin
    May 8, 2008 11:23 am

    I had read this article after my husband told me about it. Then reading your blog I started tearing up again just thinking about him. What a remarkable young man!

  4. TheTruth
    May 8, 2008 11:33 am

    Well put, Pittgirl. The PG videos (on the left hand side of the article) were difficult to watch. His parents must be very proud.

  5. back in the burgh
    May 8, 2008 11:50 am

    I, too, read it on Sunday and cried into my paper. I tried to tell my husband about it, but ended up just making him read it. Heartbreaking and inspiring, all at the same time. Thanks for sharing it with those who haven’t seen it.

  6. Maria
    May 8, 2008 12:07 pm

    Wow. This hit me hard, because just a month ago a 19 year old friend of mine lost her fight against brain cancer. John’s bravery, as well as my friend’s, amazes me. It puts everything in perspective.

  7. Jennifer
    May 8, 2008 12:32 pm

    Well, hell. Why did you go and do that??? I avoided the story on Sunday, the picture was enough to dab at my eyes with a kleenex. But like a lemming, I ran dutifully off the cliff after you and your readers. Now I’m sitting at work, eyes swimming, sniffling, trying to hide behind my little lap top–because if I have to tell someone what is wrong I will most likely start to wail and blubber–and wanting to run and take my teenage son out of school just to hug him.

  8. elysianfantasy
    May 8, 2008 12:52 pm

    OMG!!! Thanks for making me cry this afternoon!!! Seriously though, this kid is a true inspiration. The wisdom he’s gained far surpasses that of many adults. He’s definitely given me a lot of food for thought. I’d love to meet him, but I don’t think I could do so without blubbering like a baby.

  9. Lawrence
    May 8, 2008 12:52 pm

    If you don’t shed a few tears on this one …. check yourself out … you may not be human.

  10. John
    May 8, 2008 2:20 pm

    I’m sitting here in tears. That is one of the most emotional, inspiring stories I’ve ever read. John Challis is an inspiration.

  11. Mitch Cumstein
    May 8, 2008 3:35 pm

    I’ve met John and his family…on top of all his insights and amazing perspective and courage in dealing with this, he’s a hell of a nice kid and funny as all get out. The world could use a few more John Challises.

  12. expghgirl
    May 8, 2008 4:53 pm

    Crying my eyes out. Going home to my kids right now!

  13. Dan
    May 8, 2008 7:30 pm

    Yes i cried while reading this article, not because John has cancer, but because of his strength and outlook on life. This kid is a true role model for every man, woman, and child. He is correct in always thinking positive.
    My prayers and thoughts are with you and your family.

    God Bless

  14. Still A Fan
    May 8, 2008 9:37 pm

    you know what, i dont want to hijack this beautiful thread, but when people get all crazy if someone doubts god’s existence – they need to read this. how does a loving, caring god allow this???? HOW? its like a couple with an infant in their car gets hit by a MAC truck and the baby dies and they are like “it must have been god’s plan”. WHAT? i’m just so sure god is sitting up there thinking…”you know what, the spencers have had it too easy in their young lives…i’m going to challenge them to see what they’re made of. i’m going to slam a 37 ton truck into their car and kill their 15 month old to see how it plays out”.

    go ahead…flame away….sorry

  15. pghrugbyangel
    May 8, 2008 10:31 pm

    Yeah, cried at work… and John is the WTAE Player of the Week. They just showed it on the news. Fantastic!

  16. pittgirl
    May 9, 2008 7:38 am

    Still A Fan,

    I think the way to look at this is this: Some people find comfort from a belief in God when things go horribly wrong, such as John seems to be doing. Let’s let him have that comfort without putting a doubt in his head.

    In addition, there are countless tragedies and unbearable pains in the world to convince one without a doubt that there is no God, and there are countless beauties and miraculous gifts in the world to convince one without a doubt that there absolutely must be a God. So those that believe shouldn’t judge those that don’t, and those that don’t, shouldn’t judge those that believe.

    Whoa! I should write that down. Oh…

  17. _megankish__
    May 9, 2008 12:11 pm

    DAMN, I should have read comment #2 before reading this story! Because I’m at work and I had to try REALLY, REALLY hard to keep the tears from ROLLING down my face!

    I saw this story in the paper. I picked it up and read the caption under the picture and decided that if I read it, I would cry, so I put it back down. I even cried a little bit just looking at the picture. So after actually reading the article, I almost feel like a different person.

    What a special kid.

  18. elysianfantasy
    May 9, 2008 5:21 pm

    Pitt Girl to Still a Fan:

    Very well put, Pitt Girl! And to elaborate further, I think the thing to remember is that those of us who believe in a God (as I do) don’t believe that there will always be happy endings and rainbows. In fact, I’ve found in my Christian walk that I’ve had more than my fair share of bad things happen to me and my family.

    Shit happens. Bad things happen. But isn’t the fault of a God. God isn’t a magic genie. Could He have cured this boy? I think so. But just look at the amazing way he has inspired all of us! And though it’s an absolute shame that this young man will be leaving us, sometimes it takes something this sad to help us realize the impact of goodness, and what we can all do to be better people. What I want to know is how many people are going to forget this young man and all he has shown us after he’s gone? Too often, many people forget afterwards, and I think that’s a major reason stuff like this still happens.

    Unfortunately, there are a lot of people in this world who go through life selfishly, and and forget that every day is not promised to us. Mr. Challis has reminded us that we can’t be selfish in this world, and that in order to do the most good, we have to touch the lives of others. We can’t take each day for granted, and this young man is the perfect example of fulfilling this.

    I have found, for me, in a power higher than yourself gives people the courage to move on when everything else is telling you there isn’t hope. In fact, it renews that hope. You may call that weakness of spirit, and I understand if you do. But as Pitt Girl so beautifully stated, if this is what gets this family through, then you can’t deny him (or the rest of us) that.

  19. Still A. Fan
    May 10, 2008 6:10 am

    all good points….didnt mean to judge and i’m not a raging atheist or anything like that. heck, my daughter just had her first communion and i’ve blogged away about how i dont like how kids dress in church these days….

    there’s always just this lingering doubt and when something tragic happens to kids (especially) thats when my doubt bubbles up to the top in frustration.

  20. Katie
    May 12, 2008 7:47 am

    Thanks for making me cry PittGirl…

    Was this the same kid they had that stupid blonde reporter for Versus interviewing during the game last night? They look kinda familiar and it would make sense… Anyways, if it was he got to meet Mario and the Duke. And then Benny invited him to Steelers practice so I’m sure we can expect another gut wrenching article in the near future about that trip…