My Unexpected Start To Senior Year

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My Unexpected Start To Senior Year

Kate Prewett & Fiona Oliver.

Kate Prewett & Fiona Oliver.

Kate Prewett & Fiona Oliver.

Kate Prewett & Fiona Oliver.

Fiona Oliver, Staff Writer

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Since I first set foot in high school, I dreamed about being an upperclassman. I didn’t know why I was in such a hurry to grow up. I’m still not sure, but I could see from the get-go that seniority had perks. Seniors got a designated parking lot, first row bleacher seats, as well as a “reserved” hangout spot at the rocks for gathering between classes–all of which seemed to provide a sense of belonging and confidence.

However, my enthusiasm for the start of this magical year was suddenly challenged by the death of my classmate and best friend, Kate Prewett, on the first day of school. Kate had been diagnosed with a Glioblastoma. She spent a year receiving treatment at Denver Children’s Hospital, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and Duke University’s Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center, but the cancer was fatal.

I heard the news while I was hobbling home on crutches, having broken my ankle a few days before. Watching my dear friend die while I was recovering from a severe injury made for a difficult start to the year I’d so looked forward to.

Kate lit up every room she entered. Toward the end, her memory faded. She struggled to remember the day of the week, what she ate for breakfast, and even who her parents were. Although she no longer always recognized me, our friendship continued to grow. One day, Kate texted me exclaiming she had a craving for Panda Express and asked if I could take her out for lunch.

After inhaling her teriyaki chicken and fried rice, she proceeded to tell me about her craving for McDonald’s french fries. Because her memory was suffering, she had forgotten we’d just eaten. Kate’s mom said no to the second order of food and had to hide Kate’s wallet from her. For the next hour, she begged me to sneak her some fries. I promised I would. She was feisty like that.

Soon after our lunch date, I broke my ankle following one of the many foolish social media trends popular at the time. Have you heard of the Keke Challenge? Well, neither had my parents until my friends brought me home after the car I jumped out of to dance beside ran over my leg.

The surgeon had to install two screws to repair my shattered tibia. I quickly regretted my impulsive decision as I learned to cope with crutches and an ankle boot. I felt helpless and frustrated with myself for failing to use good judgment. This seemed small in comparison to what my friend was going through, but it made a big impact on me.

Social media’s influence on me was overwhelming. So eager to grow up, I didn’t always see how much of a kid I still was, prone to the pressure of peers and even strangers on the internet. Apparently, growing up would have little do with designated seats for the assembly. Kate had to learn that in the worst way possible.

The challenge for me now may be to be in less of a hurry, to not take for granted my youth and my health, but to take my time to make sure I focus more on what’s important, like the meaningful relationships in my life and how I can make others’ lives brighter, not by being a follower but by being a leader. I no longer want to grow up faster. I just want to grow up better. I think my friend Kate would like that.

My ankle post surgery.

Kate Prewett & Fiona Oliver at Kate’s Warrior Walk in May 2018.