Just Get Happy: The Big Lesson I Learned from a Strong Little Girl

UPDATE: I ran into Jenny’s mom today. I was told that she passed away last June. I wanted to repost this post I originally wrote on my personal blog about her and her simple inspirational message.

RIP Jenny, you were a very strong girl, an inspiration  and your words changed my perspective.

Just Get Happy

**Names have been changed to protect identities**

Friday, December 21st 2012

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”-Dr. Seuss

About a week ago while waiting to go into my radiation appointment, a little girl with a big smile, a shaved head and hazel eyes sat next to me. I noticed out of the corner of my eye that she was staring at me.

With a bubbly attitude she said, “Hi Mister. Who are you? Why are you here”

I smiled, “My name is Dave. I am here to get some radiation. What’s your name?”

She looked down, “Oh… my name Jenny and I am eight. Why are getting radiation? I know everything about radiation.”

I went on to explain my situation the best way I could to a 8 year old, “I have this thing in my head that I am trying to get rid of.”

Thinking for a little bit she said, “Oh is it a tumor?”


“I have those too.  They are in my chest and some other parts of my body. Are you sad about it?”

“Not really.”

Adult-like she said, “You can tell me… I can keep a secret.”

I responded, “Well I was a little sad when I first found out, but not anymore.”

“I get sad sometimes, but you want to know a secret?”

“Sure”, I said.

She whispered, “If I am sad, I just get happy and it makes me feel better.”

At this point her mother called her back and said to me, “I am sorry, is she bothering you? She is so talkative with everyone. She is always looking for people to relate with.”

I assured her that she was not being a bother. The mother went on to explain that when Jenny was four she had developed an awful cough. The mother wrote it off as a cold, but still went to the doctor anyways. She explained that what came next was a nightmare. While at the doctor’s office, some x-rays were taken as a precaution to make sure she didn’t have bronchitis or pneumonia. That is when they discovered the tumor in Jenny’s lungs. In the weeks to come, it was discovered that it was a neuroblastoma tumor, a cancer predominantly found in children. She had surgery a couple of months later to remove the tumor . They were able to remove most of it and the doctors treated the rest with chemotherapy. It was a week before Christmas that the family found out that she was in remission at the age of 5.

It was inferred that Jenny doesn’t remember most of the experience.  Unfortunately about two years later she would be reminded of what happened. A week after her 7th birthday, she started to cough again. The cancer was back. She is now going through radiation therapy (where I met her) and chemotherapy. She is a very strong girl with strong aspirations and dreams. She is powerful. She is positive. She is loving.  She is innocent.

What we can learn from this is that innocence is very important in our lives. When we were children we were able to trust everyone around us. We weren’t negative, crooked or cynical. We understood things openly, straight, and simple. We didn’t have problems. We played. We laughed. We did what made us happy.

When Jenny said “If I am sad, I just get happy and it makes me feel better”, it made me reflect that happiness can be an on and off switch that we can control most of the time. Just get happy. Everyone has at least one thing to reflect on that makes them happy. Sometimes we get buried. We forget that we have a choice.

This past week in Newtown, Connecticut we were reminded that lives can be taken away from the innocent, that life is too short, that we should take a break from being an adult every once in a while and to love and take value in those who are important  in our lives.

As adults, we can still do childish things and bring back the innocence we had as children.

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” -Dr. Seuss

“Just get happy”


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