I’ll never forget the first day I met Holden. I was teaching a beginner swimming class at a community pool nearby. It’s a great summer program that I did for several summers. Put on by the local YMCA, SPLASH! is geared towards low-income families and children who might not otherwise have the chance to learn how to swim.
He was so shy and timid. His grandmother proudly held his hand as I squatted down to introduce myself. I threw on my shiniest smile and said Hey, I’m Kat. (This never fails to make children giggle because inevitably they want to call me kitty kat..I’m totally okay with that.) He smiled and said: “My name is Holden and I need to learn how to swim.”
I told him I thought we could do that and I’ll never forget the sparkle that he got in his eyes. Holden went on to tell me that it was extremely important he learn how that week. I asked why the urgency and he said 5 words that broke my heart. Miss Kat, I have cancer. You could have knocked me over with a toothpick. I was floored. How does a tiny beautiful blond-headed boy with blue eyes get dealt such a thing? He went on to tell me that he was going to a special camp for kids like him and needed to pass the swim test. It’s a camp specifically for kids struggling with cancer/blood disorders that we have in the upstate in SC :)
That week would forever change my life. I learned so much from a shy little boy who could barely swim. Holden worked harder than any little boy I’ve seen. I’m proud to say that not only did I have him swimming all the way across the pool but he even went off the diving board by the end of the week. The last day of class is always an amazing day. So many proud parents cheering on their children. But it was one of the saddest for me. I’ll never forget standing there holding Holden’s mom’s hand as he swam across the entire pool determined to be able to get his swim test pass at the summer camp for kids with cancer he would be attending the next week. By the time he touched the wall on the other side of the pool we were both bawling.
Holden went on to summer camp the next week and passed his swim test with flying colors. I got the sweetest phone call from him saying thank you for teaching me to swim :)
Three months later, on a cold October Saturday I donated 10 inches of my hair in Holden’s honor…because as a little boy once told me..cancer ain’t just for girls.
One Blessed Lemon
PS: Holden’s cancer, as of our last checkin, is currently in remission!