Heroism as a State of Mind

By: Adam Petras

When people are asked who their role model or hero is, one would normally think of someone that is older than them. Until a few of years ago, I probably would have said the same thing. I probably would have thought of an old teacher or coach that I had. But starting on Nov 2, 2011, my hero became my friend Kyle Deliere.

Now to say Kyle and I were the best of friends would be unfair and a lie. I am actually best friends with his brother, Tanny. That being said, when Tanny, myself, and our friends would go out or over to someone’s house to watch a big game, Kyle was usually there.

Kyle was the definition of an athlete. He loved baseball and soccer, but his true passion was wrestling. And everyone that knew him knew it as well. Kyle excelled at wresting more than anyone I knew. In 2004, in the finals of the Powerade tournament, I saw a lot of great matches that went down to the wire. Kyle pinned his opponent in about 45 seconds.  After he graduated from high school, Kyle went on to wrestle for the University of Pittsburgh.  Kyle would always say that wrestling in college was the hardest and most fun he ever had in his life.

During college, I would normally only see Kyle during the summer. But, once he graduated, he began hanging out with his brother and us a lot more.  We would not see him as much as we liked because it seemed every week Kyle had a new date with a new girl.

One Halloween night, my friend Tanny looked upset. I asked him what was wrong.  He told me that Kyle had been sick lately. He went to the doctors, and they ran a bunch of tests. One was for cancer. I told Tanny to try not to worry. Kyle is a beast.  Whatever he had, he was sure to beat.  Just a couple of days later, Tanny texted me, telling me that Kyle was indeed diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer.

As young and strong as Kyle was, the doctors opted to give him the most aggressive forms of treatment possible. Kyle went through an 8 hour operation to remove the tumor. Soon after, he began a chemo treatment that was as strong as the doctors could give. In just a few short weeks, Kyle went from looking like a professional athlete to a man confined to a wheelchair, looking like he was days from death. The interesting thing about this, however, is that Kyle never once complained.  If anyone ever had a right to complain, it would have been Kyle. Every time I would visit him at his house, cancer was never brought up. He would always want to know how I was doing, how my fiancé was doing, how baseball was going. Always asking how I was and never talking about himself. Keep in mind, Kyle and I weren’t even the closest of friends.  Here he was in a time where he should have only been worrying about himself, and he was asking about my life.

Eventually, Kyle started feeling better. He began going out with us again, going to ball games with us again, and yes, going on more dates, with more women again. During this time, the cancer never fully went away and the treatments never fully stopped. But like I said before, no complaints, no sadness.

On June 1st 2013, I got married. Kyle was invited to the wedding, but he was getting very sick around this time. I did not think he would be able to make it. Sure enough as my wife and I walked into the reception hall for our big introduction, who was the first person we saw? Kyle, standing up, leaning on his crutches, giving us the biggest applause of anyone in the hall.  When we talked to him that night, he told us how happy he was that we thought to invite him to our wedding. And yes, he had a date.

I saw Kyle a couple times afterwards. I knew he was getting sicker, but I had no idea how sick he was. Then one day, my friend Brian sent me a text informing me that Kyle took a dramatic turn for the worse. He was home, and a priest just left after giving Kyle the last rights. The next day, I went to visit him. He was in and out of consciousness. I went over to him and said hello. Barely able to speak, he said, “Hey Petras, what’s up?”  It truly amazed me. I talked to his father and Tanny, and they told me it was simply a waiting game at this point.

I showed up two days later and sure enough, there was Kyle, sitting up drinking a slushie, watching SportsCenter. He knew he only had at most a couple days left. But just like Kyle, when I was there, he said hi to me and proceeded to tell me how sad he was that I was no longer coaching baseball. The last time I visited him, he was mostly sleeping.  You could tell he was in a lot of pain. As I was going home, I went over, told him goodbye and patted his chest.  He opened his eyes, shook my hand and said, “Goodbye, Petras.” To say it brought me to tears would be an understatement. Tanny told me the next night that they were expecting Kyle to go at any time. In true Kyle fashion, he held on for another 5 hours. It wasn’t until 3 am that morning that I got the text that Kyle died. Instead of being upset, I smiled, I knew his pain and fighting were over, and he was with his mom again who passed away from the same disease five years earlier.

It is easy to say Kyle was my hero because he had cancer. But that is not why he is my profile in courage. It is the way he lived his life while having the disease. The entire time he had it, he knew he was probably going to die. But never once did he complain, or feel sorry for himself. He went on living his life the only way he knew how. Going out, having fun, and yes, getting girls. I told his brother at the funeral after Kyle was put in the ground next to his mother that if I could live my life half the way Kyle led his I would consider my life a great success.

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