Dimitrius Wilson had his head face down on his desk. He assumed it was a stomach ache, considering the immense pain coming from his lower abdominal area. He did what any other sixth grader would do and walked down the three flights of middle school stairs to the nurse’s room conveniently located next to the exit of the school building.
When his mother came to pick him up, he was probably told that he was going to be just fine. Everyone gets stomach ache every once in awhile. Whether you’re five, 13 (as Dimitrius was), or 50, we’ve all ingested something that our body did not take so kindly. So sure, I had no doubt in my mind that he would be back the next day.
Since kindergarten, I’ve always seen his face in school. Adept in basketball, soccer, and track and field, Dimitrius was in prime shape. Always active, always on the run. Of course he’d be okay. His health was something I would never have to question. I was going to see him the next day.
Subsequently, I didn’t. Shockingly, he wasn’t there the day after either. “Must’ve been a serious case of the flu," I thought.
Days turned to weeks. Then weeks turned to months. Two months, five months, 10 months, one year, a year and a half. I was afraid many times that he was dead or went missing. I’d ask other mutual friends where he was and how he was doing. One mutual friend told me he was doing okay. However, the reason still evaded me.
One day, I was walking toward a bodega to get myself a bite when I saw signs of Dimitrius’s face on every light pole in town. It was his toddler portrait. Large porcelain cheeks with a smile that would melt any mother’s heart. To my relief, the sign was not a plea to find a missing child.
The sign instead asked for a donation of blood marrow. At the time, I had no experience in Anatomy and Physiology whatsoever, but I could tell you that a dolphin is a mammal and not a fish. So as an up and coming “scientist," I used good old Google to see why my best friend was in need of this “bone marrow."
I was torn. WebMD did its job in breaking my heart when the website told me that he might be diagnosed with Leukemia, cancer that produces abnormal leukocytes (a type of white blood cell that fights pathogens). It was confirmed by his mother. The idea of losing my closest friend to cancer grew on me day by day.
I got to see him in the summer of 2011. He lived about a five-minute walk from the high school, behind the turf football field and up the hill. His famed afro had disappeared. All the chemotherapy, medication, and time off had taken a huge toll on his health and hair.
A three-sport athlete turned sickly cancer patient. His smile and personality never changed, and that’s what I loved most about him. As hurt as he was, he never gave up. He always joked around when we played Xbox or competed together on the soccer team.
He still had the same enthusiasm as he did when he was in perfect health. Halfway through my freshman year, I was given a big surprise. That morning before my first-period class, I saw Dimitrius with a bookbag on. Elated, I ran up to him and gave him the biggest hug ever. My best friend was back, albeit temporarily.
He’d only stay for around nine months until his cancer came back and had two more rounds of chemotherapy. It didn’t help much. As the one year passed, the leukemia started to take a toll on his body. He was getting skinnier, much paler, and losing his hair.
He still hid his pain when I would come to visit. The last time I saw him alive was in May of 2014. He was still as happy as I can remember, although he probably faked it. He never wanted me to feel sad. He never wanted to remind me that he was going to die.
He probably knew. But he loved me as a brother, a friend, a soul. And I loved him all the same. He would die on August 31st. He was 17 years old.