This is my friend Mike Holmes.
Last year, I worked in Chicago's iconic Sears Tower, located in the Loop. Every workday, I exited CTA's el, and walked 4 blocks to the office. Every workday, I passed the Marriott Hotel. Mike works as a doorman at the Marriott, and sees a lot of people passing by, in a rush to get to wherever they are going.
I tend to try to be aware of my surroundings, and in that awareness, I look people in the eye, sometimes smile, sometimes say hello. On a daily basis, Mike would look me in the eye, flash his infectious smile and say hello. After a few months of this daily interaction, Mike introduced himself to me as "Holmes" (his surname), which is all too perfect, because it sounds like "home"- a place of warmth and safety and shelter, much like Mike's giant, kind heart.
One day, just a little over a year ago, I had a doctors appointment which was scheduled during my workday. I left the office, walked a few blocks to the appointment and received the beginnings of terrible news- my doctor discovered what later turned out to be cancer. My doctor sent me on my way from the appointment with an urgent order for ultrasounds and CT scans. I tried hard to keep it together, but was terrified. I left the appointment, walked back into the office stifling my tears and promptly told my manager that I had to go home.
As I tearfully rushed to the train to get home, I passed Mike, who saw how upset I was- I heard, "Hey! Are you ok?!" and saw a very concerned look on his face as I wiped away my tears and awkwardly gave a quick wave. Somehow I made it through the commute back to my house and proceeded to fall apart, in safety.
After that doctors appointment, I had a few VERY intense weeks that consisted of CT scans and consultations with my current oncologist. All signs were pointing to ovarian cancer, but could not be confirmed until I went in for major surgery. I was, quite plainly, a hot mess. I was incredibly anxious, and legitimately thought that I was going to die from cancer within a year.
During those weeks of unfolding news, I didn't really see Mike on my commute. Finally I saw him one morning. He stopped me, and with a very concerned look on his face, asked me if I was doing ok. Normally I wouldn't get into details about my health situation with someone who is essentially a stranger, but Mike came off as genuinely concerned. I gave him a brief overview of what was going on- that he saw me after a terrible doctors appointment and that I very well may have cancer and needed to go in for surgery. He listened to what I said and then gave me the gift of hope. With his hand on my shoulder, he looked me in the eye and said, "But the doctors don't know yet. You don't know if you have cancer, so try not to get anxious about something that isn't confirmed. Breathe.". Mike had shared some advice with me that was so simple, and yet so profound. Essentially he was telling me to live in the now, which is all any of us truly has.
I ended up going in for surgery, and it was confirmed- I had cancer. It was about half a year later that I ran into Mike on the sidewalk again, on my first day back to work after months misery and aggressive chemo. I was bald and had gained about 40 lbs of steroid weight and bloat. I looked nothing like the woman he knew from months before, and yet he recognized me instantly as I walked down the street. I was greeted with a big smile and even bigger hug and the words, "There's my buddy! I've been wondering how you've been, and then I saw you walking down this street today and just thought, 'There's my buddy!'".
I eventually left my job, and so I don't see Mike's smile on a daily basis anymore. I had a doctor's appointment today and rounded the corner to the Marriott to see if Mike was outside. Just like old times, I walked down the street and was greeted with Mike's giant smile and a giant hug. I got to catch up with him for a little while and hear about his life- his wife (who sounds awesome) and their plans to run a 5k and possibly longer distance races in the future. He sounds happy.
I am incredibly grateful for the genuine kindness in strangers like Mike. I'm not sure he knows how much he helped me get through tone of the worst days of my life. Mike if you are reading this, THANK YOU. Your giant heart inspires me and I'll be sure to someday pass on that hope and kindness to a stranger in my path.
This is my friend Mike Holmes.