Athena Orchard was 12 years old when she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of cancer that develops in the bone and commonly affects children and young adults. The condition, also known as osteogenic sarcoma condition, is the eighth most prevalent form of childhood cancer.
Following her diagnosis, Athena underwent chemotherapy to treat the cancer in her head, left shoulder and spine. She also went through more than seven hours of operation to remove a tumor in her spine. Athena's strength also declined and she had to use a wig because her treatment caused her to lose her hair. Despite all these, Athena remained strong and positive.
"She was always positive, even when she was in the hospital she would be looking after me, making sure I ate and telling me not to cry," Athena's mother Caroline related. "We knew the cancer was very aggressive, the doctors had never seen anything like it."
Athena's strength and optimism regardless of her condition apparently stem from her positive outlook in life. Even with her deteriorating health, the young girl from New Parks, Leicester managed to write an inspiring note about life and happiness.
"Happiness depends upon ourselves," Athena wrote. "Maybe it's not about the happy ending, maybe it's about the story. The purpose of life is a life of purpose. The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra."
Athena wrote the note on the back of a stand-up mirror in her room but it was not until after her death that her family discovered and read it. Athena's treatments were not able to save her from her disease and the young girl died in their home last week. Athena, who has left behind three brothers and sisters and was surrounded by her loved ones on her death, may have written the note as a secret and intended it for her family to read after she passed away as no one sees what's behind the mirror in her room and she never mentioned anything about it.
Athena's parents discovered the message days after her death while sorting through her belongings. Dean and Caroline Orchard found the approximately 3,000-word long message when moving the mirror in their daughter's room. Dean, who worked as a landscape gardener before he quit his job to take care of his daughter, had to stop reading Athena's note because he broke out in tears.
"I started reading it but before long I had to stop because it was too much, it was heartbreaking," he said.