I was a Junior in high school when I met Cole Scattarelli. It was a bright fall day and we were representing our respected schools at a "leadership retreat" (just imagine 75 high school kids in a field performing trust-falls).
I was a little overwhelmed. Let me get this straight, you're going to throw me into a group of strangers, many from rival schools and expect me to believe they're going to catch me? No thanks. The glare I was getting from Osseo's star goalkeeper only solidified my belief that this was a bad idea– if she had her way, I would surely be leaving in a cast.
Cole was a star hockey player at Elk River, charming and charismatic with a smile that made Colgate proud. One of those people you're drawn to, one of those who infect you with their energy. As I stood there in my letter jacket and braces and Cole in his sweatpants and stocking cap, suddenly I wasn't nervous at all.
If there's two things you need when dealing with a group of high schoolers, it's a mega phone and a P.E. teacher on a power trip.
"You, over there."
"You, go with her."
"Drama students, meet over there."
"Athletes, over here."
"Student Council, stay put."
Our shared athleticism had placed us in the same group of high-energy, bright-eyed, awkward teenagers – the start of a friendship, a huge blessing I wouldn't realize until many years later.
I could bore you with the details of that day, how Cole calmed the fears and encouraged Little Miss Scared of Heights, or how we instantly clicked on so many levels, but in the fear of sounding cheesy (and the crap I'd get from Cole), I'll digress.
Fast forward 11 years later and we're still at it. A friendship so genuine he feels more like a brother than anything. Someone I can count on, someone who always gives it to me straight.
I was out to dinner with some girlfriends when I got the text: "We need to talk." Which is honestly the worst sentence ever. I told him I was out with the girls and asked what was up but he wasn't budging.
"I want to tell you in person, call me tomorrow."
At this point, knowing Cole cared about me only the way a brother could, I was convinced he was going to tell me my boyfriend was cheating on me or something truly devastating.
24 hours later and there we were, in person.
"I have Cancer."
I was so confused. What? What do you mean you have Cancer? He tried to explain with more detail and used big words I didn't understand. Talk about devastating, a cheating boyfriend would have been a walk in the park compared to this.
To be honest, I don't really remember much after the initial news was given but one thing I'll never forget was Cole's optimism. He's always optimistic, it's one of the things that draws people in. Part of me thinks he shielded his fears for my own sake because that's the kind of guy he is. That's the kind of guy he'll always be.
Despite the odds, paralyzing fear and truly life-changing news of being diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer, he never quit. He instantly started raising money for The Angel Foundation, founded his own charity, Swing Back at Cancer and on October 1st, he will be walking in the Angels And Divas annual runway show with all of the evening's proceeds going directly to The Angel Foundation.
When we find ourselves in situations like this, it's obvious how painfully isolating it can be. Suddenly your once carefree day-to-day life is filled with medication, doctor appointments, the fear of the unknown and medical bills. While I believe that God places the right people in our lives to help with the emotional stress life-altering news surely brings, Cole knows firsthand the monetary implications a cancer diagnosis can cause and he has made it his mission to help local families.
If you're interested in helping Cole raise money to fight Cancer, you can do so here. If you're not able to give financially, you can help by praying for a cure and for those who are fighting the fight.
Now, go hug your best friend.