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On behalf of all cancer survivors: thank you, John Wall

For all the negative stories in sports, for all the trouble in the world and for all the general lack of love that exists in today’s society, John Wall showed everyone in the world on Monday Night that a man’s heart, no matter what the circumstance, is always susceptible to love.

Any one who has followed the Wizards over the last 12-15 months knows all about John’s personal and social media campaign to help 6 year old Miyah Telemaque-Nelson meet Nicki Minaj and have one of her wigs. Miyah was doing something no 6 year old should ever have to do and that’s fight Burkitt’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system. As most of you know, Miyah lost her battle to cancer a few days ago and it visibly affected John as in his post-game interview with Chris Miller, he couldn’t even finish because he broke down in tears and left the court for the locker room.

It’s a chilling reminder to everyone about how this disease will recklessly affect everyone and will kill with no regard. 16 years ago, I was diagnosed with leukemia and it was one of the most frightening times of my life. To put it bluntly, I went through hell. Eight months of chemotherapy, another five months of radiation treatment, five years of hospitals, IV’s, X-rays, CT Scans, MRI’s, Pulmonary tests, EKG’s, blood tests, blood transfusions and that was just a weekly occurrence. I lost all my hair within 2 weeks of chemo. The doctors put me on steroids that made me gain a significant amount of weight because they didn’t want me to lose body mass as I was undergoing chemotherapy. I was 12 at the time of my diagnosis and treatment, so on top of all the poison that was being put in to my body from the chemo, my body was going through its own natural changes. Needless to say, it was a tough time for me physically. Emotionally, I was a wreck. I thought my life was over on multiple occasions. It’s one thing to hear the word “cancer” when it’s said by someone on TV, or you hear about someone doing a 5K to raise money, but when you’re in a doctor’s office and he/she tells you or your loved one that “you have cancer” it really doesn’t have the same affect. As a kid, I had obviously heard of cancer and just always associated it with a death sentence so I thought everything was over, despite my doctor telling me I had an almost 99% chance of beating it and living a healthy life. Once you hear “cancer” you tend to block everything else out.

I began treatment at the world renowned Children’s National Medical Center in Washington D.C. and from day 1, I was devastated. Not because of what I was going through or the pain that I was in, but I quickly learned that cancer does not limit who it affects. I saw all kinds of children in there every day with all kinds of diseases. Children as young as 2 and as old as 15. In the infusion room, everyone sort of sat in their own area and kept to themselves. The kids would be kids and try and play. The old ones usually just sat, played video games and other board games and the parents were always there for help and support. However, every day I came in for treatment, one seat would be empty and a few days later, it was occupied by another patient. I even remember walking in and saying to myself, “I wonder which kid won’t be there today.”

Cancer has no boundaries. It doesn’t care who it affects and it most certainly doesn’t care who it kills. If I had gone just a few more months of not saying anything or not detecting it, who knows where I would be today, or if I would even be here to write this post. So as a cancer survivor, watching John break down like that on camera was a constant reminder of that time. I can take all the pain in the world, but there is no pain in the world like seeing children have to suffer through something that they should never deal with. Spend five minutes in a children’s hospital and you’ll soon know that there’s no worse sound in the world than that of a child crying because they have no idea why this is happening to them.


Little Miyah may have unfortunately lost her life, but because of John and his love, she remains alive in the hearts of so many people. John is no longer the 19 year old boy that came in to the league. On Monday night he showed the world what kind of man he is and I couldn’t be more proud of him. To help this little girl and her family experience something she never thought would be possible and to do it so willingly is a trait that few posses.

I doubt John will ever read this, but in case he does, I would like to address him here personally:

John, on top of being one of the game’s best players you have become one of the ultimate role models in sports today. On behalf of all survivors everywhere, I commend you for your amazing heart, extraordinary character and overwhelming sensitivity. A lot of people may forget about what you did on Monday night, but I assure you that cancer survivors everywhere will always remember the amazing strength and love you showed to a little girl who unfortunately isn’t around to receive more of it. The NBA needs more men like you, The WORLD needs more men like you.

Thank you.

Saam Bozorgmehr

we are Hoop District

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