Cancer survivor returns a gift to Marine before deployment

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by LAUREN ZAKALIK

Bio | Email | Follow: @wfaalauren

WFAA

Posted on June 27, 2014 at 6:44 PM

Updated Friday, Jun 27 at 6:44 PM

FORT WORTH -- They're unlikely friends: a 22-year-old Marine from Mansfield and a 13-year-old cancer survivor from Saginaw.

Yet their friendship is one to last a lifetime.

"Honestly, it was just doing the right thing," said Lance Cpl. Kevin Varas de Valdes. "I think we all want to do the right thing."

Last year, right before he turned 12, Michael McClenny got the diagnosis no child should ever have to hear. He had cancer; a non-Hodgkins Lymphoma called Burkitt's.

"I just kept thinking -— 'How am I gonna tell him? How am I gonna tell him?" said Michael's mother, Lisa David.

But as Michael started chemo, he had a new support system.

Lance Cpl. Kevin Varas de Valdes and other Marines visited him in the hospital. Kevin brought along a teddy bear - a gift from his own dad before he deployed to Kuwait when Kevin was 11 - the same age Michael was when he got his diagnosis.

"Just to have a little bit of support, it felt good," Michael said.

Kevin didn't have to, but he kept visiting. He even helped shave Michael's head because his hair was going to fall out from the treatment.

Michael's hair is now all grown back, and Friday the doctor told him he's cancer-free. So Michael came to Fort Worth to the Joint Reserve Base to share the great news with Kevin and to give back Kevin's bear, as Kevin gets set to deploy for the very first time.

Kevin was floored.

"I'm trying not to cry," he said.

"To give it back to him while Kevin’s deployed," Lisa David said, "a little reminder of who’s back here waiting for him. Maybe one day Michael will get that bear back when he’s deployed."

Her son wants to serve as soon as he can.

"Just because it seems like the right thing to do," he said.

A lesson instilled in him by someone who did the right thing, too.

E-mail lzakalik@wfaa.com
 

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