The old man showed up to visit his granddaughter in the pediatric oncology wing of the hospital. It was late. He took the elevator and got a few weird looks from other passengers since he was carrying a bouquet, a boombox and wearing a snappy suit.
He walked into his granddaughter’s hospital room. The little girl’s face turned 101 shades of thrilled.
“Grandpa!” said the child in a weakened whisper.
The nurses cleared away the girl’s supper of Jello and creamed potatoes. Her mother dabbed her chin.
He placed the boombox onto a chair. He straightened his coat. He hit the play button. The room began to fill with the silken sounds of the Count Basie Orchestra. Then came the trombone-like voice of Old Blue Eyes. The song was “The Way You Look Tonight.”
“I promised my granddaughter I would teach her to dance,” the old man recalls. “Told her I’d make sure she knew the Foxtrot, the Samba, the Rumba, and the Waltz before she got married. But we never got around to it, so I wanted to fix that.”
The nurses helped the frail child out of bed. The little girl’s head was bald. Her limbs and face were swollen from the effects of the medications she’d been taking. And she was tired. Cancer is not for sissies.
“Let me have your hands,” said Granddaddy.
Her little hands fit into his old palms nicely.
“Now stand on my feet,” he said.
The child placed her stocking feet atop the old man’s shoes. He stooped to kiss her shiny head. “That’s good,” he said.
He moved his feet back and forth and told her to follow his lead. They had to pause now and then because they were both prone to laughing fits.
The nurses videoed with their phones. A few orderlies watched from the doorway. The girl’s mother sat on the hospital bed, watching.
“This is how Grandpa taught me to dance,” said Mom. “Back when I was your age.”
But then Mom felt her eyes fill with moisture. She held back a Niagara of tears. Because when Mom was her daughter’s age, the biggest problem in her young life was dealing with was poor grades, or learning to be nice to her little brother. She didn’t have to deal with fatal disease. She didn’t have to listen to doctors use terms like “survival rate,” “immunotherapy,” and “lymphatic system.”
The little girl caught onto the dance steps quickly, and counted with six-beat rhythm aloud with her grandfather as she rode on his feet.
“Slow, slow, quick, quick…”
“You’re doing great,” said Granddaddy.
“Slow, slow, quick, quick…”
The nurses applauded when the song ended. The next song was “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” The dance steps changed somewhat and became more of a Waltz.
The girl’s mother began to cry. She covered her face and left the room. Because that same morning, the doctor had given the family sobering news. The child’s cancer had spread. It was still too early to tell, but this could likely be the girl’s first and last dance.
Childhood cancer isn’t something you think about until it hits your circle. The first thing you learn in such cases is that cancer sucks. The second thing you learn is that pediatric cancer is not at all as uncommon as you once thought.
The leading cause of death in children in America is cancer. Each day, 47 kids are diagnosed with cancer in this country, approximately 17,000 each year. The good news is that 84 percent of kids in the U.S. will be cured. The bad news is: you never know for certain whether you’re in that 84 percent.
“You can’t relax,” said the girl’s mother. “Twenty-four hours per day, you’re afraid. You learn never to trust good news, you learn to never—NEVER—get your hopes up. Prayer is your full-time job.”
The music ended. Granddaddy and grandaughter took a bow.
The girl’s mother says it seems like a lifetime ago since that night, 10 years ago. Since then, everything has changed for the family. They have learned to move on. They have become more unified. And they have learned that cancer, no matter what horrific damage it causes, no matter how much it steals, no matter how much of your life it ruins, cannot win. Will not win.
Tonight, somewhere in the wilds of West Virginia, that little girl is now 19 years old. As you read these words, she is wearing a long white gown, standing on a parquet floor, about to waltz with her grandfather at her own wedding reception.
And I just thought you’d like to know.
Tom Bowen - April 30, 2022 7:15 am
Steve Winfield (Lifer) - April 30, 2022 7:22 am
God bless them both.
I love you Sean & Jamie.
Thank you for all you do.
Ellen Read - April 30, 2022 8:00 am
I’m so glad!
Susan H Poole - April 30, 2022 8:30 am
WOW. Tears. Smiles & happy tears.
Phyllis Schmidbauer - April 30, 2022 8:54 am
Oh my, what an absolutely wonderful surprise ending!!!
MJ Vaught - April 30, 2022 10:32 am
That’s the power of prayer !
shannan - April 30, 2022 10:37 am
my dear friends are in that 16%. they continue to work tirelessly for the 100% cure. #LiveLikeMaya. she LOVED to dance, on stage at recitals or in the school supply aisle at Target when she was already sick. she never stopped dancing. she just does it now with no pain and with pure freedom. I’m glad your bride is living her happily ever after in the here and now. good work grandpa. I hope he is there too. 💙
Connie - April 30, 2022 10:50 am
Janie L Gentry - April 30, 2022 11:00 am
Oh, how beautiful! I don’t cry often, but thus did it
Patricia Collins - April 30, 2022 11:02 am
Fantastic story and it touched my heart so deeply. Thank you for sharing! ❤️
Marianne Bryan - April 30, 2022 11:24 am
God bless that child and that family. Thank you for caring and sharing 🙏🏻♥️
Margo Green - April 30, 2022 11:25 am
I am the mother of a childhood cancer survivor – acute lymphocytic leukemia. He was diagnosed at 2-1/2 years old and is now 46 years old! Back then the survival rate for this cancer was 50%. Every one of your words are TRUE! A terrible message shared beautifully. So very happy for that lovely 19 year old and her family. Thank you, Sean.
Anne Arthur - April 30, 2022 11:28 am
Yes, I loved to hear that ending. We buried my niece last week. It’s so good to know that not all cancers have a tragic ending. May that 19-year-old bride live a long happy life.
Paul - April 30, 2022 11:29 am
I was visiting a little client at Vanderbilt/children’s.
She was getting a kidney from her mother! Her little bald headed roommate had a big sign on her bed:”I’ve got cancer, but it ain’t got me!” They are tough!
Thanks for the wonderful story!
ajacksonwood - April 30, 2022 11:29 am
Tears of joy flow to know that this young woman was in the 84%. What a lovely story. Thank you for sharing it.
Susan - April 30, 2022 11:37 am
Ann - April 30, 2022 11:41 am
Hope…beautiful, thank you
Paul McCutchen - April 30, 2022 11:45 am
The pollen must be heavy this morning in Georgia,
Joy Jacobs. - April 30, 2022 11:47 am
Another tear jerker…. Thanks so much. ❤️
Lydia - April 30, 2022 11:48 am
Just beautiful ❤️
mrsnwalk - April 30, 2022 11:49 am
Beautiful story today. Thank you.
Robert L Chiles - April 30, 2022 11:50 am
Great story, but a correction. In 2020 gun deaths became the leading cause of death for children and adolescents in America. #2 was car crashes.
Robin - April 30, 2022 11:52 am
Somewhere up in Heaven my Dad is dancing with my 2 sisters and my Mom.He had the best smile. And he always reminded me of Mighty Mouse. Not the tallest, but with broad shoulders, barrel chested – athletic. And brilliant. He loved my Mom as if his life would end if he didn’t. And he loved my sisters. So much so when he met my. Mom when I was 5, he said, “I don’t want to go one more day not being these girls’ father” They met on a bridge card game blind date through friends. 6 weeks later they were married. I didn’t have grandfathers growing up. But I did have my Dad and all his friends to show me what a man should be to the woman he loves. I’m a lucky girl 😊
Tim - April 30, 2022 10:49 pm
Beautiful. Thank you for sharing
Nancy Harger - April 30, 2022 12:00 pm
Our granddaughter has fought cancer three times. It first began when she was two. She is now 15-1/2. We count half birthdays as she was born on Christmas day, 2006. We have been holding our breath since 2008. We have to fight for breath every six months when her follow-ups happen. I hate CANCER, but I will hold my breath every six months until I die, so that my granddaughter can graduate high school, go to college (if she wants), have a wedding day, children (maybe) and know the joys of watching and participating in this thing called LIFE.
Sally Ann Sisson - April 30, 2022 12:01 pm
Oh……. way to bring me to tears first thing in the morning!!
April - April 30, 2022 12:05 pm
WOW. What a way to start my day. Thankyou.
Jean - April 30, 2022 12:05 pm
A surprising ending but such a good one!! Love it!
Kim Janine Ligon - April 30, 2022 12:06 pm
God is good. Thank you for continuing to deliver a message of hope.
Steve Leachman - April 30, 2022 12:15 pm
What a great O. Henry ending. I was ready for a “she died shortly after her first and last dance.” Thank you for these stories. They remind us that so many of our problems aren’t really problems at all.
Cheri Michele Foster - April 30, 2022 12:26 pm
Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.
Sandy Coffee Tomlinson (A retired teacher who enjoys your stories so much!} - April 30, 2022 12:28 pm
That is a great story! I could not hold back my tears. LOVED the ending. May God continue to bless that little girl, and her sweet grandaddy!
Dana - April 30, 2022 12:32 pm
I needed a happy ending!! Tears.
Katrina Butler - April 30, 2022 12:43 pm
Thank you so much for posting this! Our niece is an oncology nurse at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. I am so proud and grateful that this is her career, passion, and life’s calling. This story is why she does what she does. She is part of these kinds of happy endings. Thanks for the reminder.
Sandra Mosolgo - April 30, 2022 12:48 pm
Once again Sean makes me cry, beautiful story.
DeeDee - April 30, 2022 12:49 pm
Thank you for this, Sean.
Kim - April 30, 2022 12:57 pm
You have me bawling over my cheerios again… Thank you.
Linda Lewis - April 30, 2022 12:57 pm
Oh, this is a beautiful story. It touched my heart. Thank you for writing it.
Helen De Prima - April 30, 2022 1:00 pm
Why we send a nice big check every Christmas to St. Jude’s.
Carla - April 30, 2022 1:01 pm
Kathy Compton - April 30, 2022 1:01 pm
That is an amazingly sweet and wonderful story. So happy for that little girl, her grandfather, and a hospital that allowed and celebrated the dancing! Excited that she survived and is getting married!
Billy Moore - April 30, 2022 1:18 pm
You make a crochety old geezer tear up.
Jan - April 30, 2022 1:19 pm
Perfection! Praise God from whom all blessings flow! Thank you.
Christine - April 30, 2022 1:25 pm
Praise God from whom all blessings flow.♥️
Jean Stone - April 30, 2022 1:33 pm
Crying at 8:30 in the morning!! But a good cry. Grateful for the outcome of this story. Grateful for the medical profession and hope some read this!
Sarah - April 30, 2022 1:33 pm
Yay! A happy ending! I was almost afraid to read the whole story, but glad I did.
BRENDA DAVIS - April 30, 2022 1:41 pm
SO LOVE !! GOD IS IN CHARGE !!
Ruth Mitchell - April 30, 2022 1:53 pm
Thankful this story didn’t have an ending. May God continue to bless that nineteen year old in her marriage!
Patty Beonde - April 30, 2022 1:57 pm
What a wonderful story!! I love your messages each day!!
Bonnie - April 30, 2022 2:01 pm
Grateful for a happy ending
Sue - April 30, 2022 2:10 pm
So glad this one has a happy ending 😊
John Henderson - April 30, 2022 2:12 pm
Thank you for sharing this; I woke up this morning needing to hear about a happy ending.
God bless you.
Penny Platt Lozon - April 30, 2022 2:21 pm
Happy tears. Thank you for sharing
Rita Munoz - April 30, 2022 2:24 pm
Well Sean, you made me cry again.
Edith Reed - April 30, 2022 2:26 pm
Part of the 84%! Thank goodness. Thanks for sharing
Ronald Blankenship - April 30, 2022 2:47 pm
Wonderful, touching story.
Pieter Voorhees - April 30, 2022 2:47 pm
Ya got me again. We’re running out of Kleenex. What a wonderful story? Btw, how old was grandpa when he he taught his granddaiughter to dance?
Mary Grider - April 30, 2022 2:52 pm
What a wonderful story! Thank you for sharing it with the world! I have four wonderful granddaughters and realize that I am truly not grateful enough for them! Thank Gid for granddaughters and you for giving us a kinder and softer view of life.
Janie F. - April 30, 2022 2:53 pm
Beautiful and a reminder that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Today’s problems and worries will be memories someday.
Toni - April 30, 2022 2:59 pm
Sitting here in my own neck of the woods I will be praying for a long and happy marriage for that little girl ❤️
Toni - April 30, 2022 3:00 pm
Neck of the woods in West Virginia
Bonnie Stewart - April 30, 2022 3:19 pm
How very heartwarming.
Judy - April 30, 2022 3:23 pm
What a beautiful ending to a horrible story. My tears wont stop. God id do good. Cancer is so bad.
Susie Flick - April 30, 2022 3:26 pm
A beautiful story with a wonderful ending!
Gloria Knight - April 30, 2022 3:29 pm
Okay, that got my tears also. What sweet story! Keep’em coming. Sean. I often share with others because some of your topics are spot on for their situations.
Jane Tallent Shoultz - April 30, 2022 3:37 pm
Once again, the sweetness of your story brings me to tears. Bless you for sharing the story of these precious souls! God is good!
Rosemary Gentry - April 30, 2022 3:43 pm
Bettye - April 30, 2022 4:22 pm
You got me good this time!
pattymack43 - April 30, 2022 4:50 pm
A poignant story that hits a little too close to home. Because you see, I am Grandma of a former 2 1/2 yr. old who was blessed to be a part of the 84%. She, too, is now 19 and living life to its fullest! And we are all as a family, very thankful for God’s mercy and grace in her life. I am so delighted to know that a beautiful 19 yr. old in West Virginia was able to dance at her wedding!! Hats off to dancing Grandpas!! God bless them all!! Thank you, Sean!!
Linda Moon - April 30, 2022 4:58 pm
Cancer is not for sissies. Cancer is especially not for children, and I just lost it here at “the nurse helped the frail child out of bed.” One of my best childhood friends lost her leg to cancer a long time ago. She’s not 19 anymore, but she’s still here. And I’m glad to know the little West Virginia girl is now 19 and just married! Thanks for telling me.
KATY 1:00 pm - April 30, 2022 5:03 pm
LOVE GOING OUT TO ALL THE GRANDPAS WHO SHOW UP 💕🥳🎉
Robert (Robin) Moore - April 30, 2022 5:11 pm
Nice story. Thanks. Brightened my day. Wife is a Big C survivor, breast and blood. The blood type had a side effect. It ate 1/4 of her skull including the top of her left eye socket. Breast cancer was caught soon enough to save both breasts, but she’s still, after recession, on some med. I had a bladder cancer. If you’ve got to have a cancer that’s the best. Most are easy to treat with no operation, radiation , or chemo.
Pilgrim, Jax Florida - April 30, 2022 5:12 pm
Smiling through my tears.
O Dirham - April 30, 2022 5:13 pm
Thank you for the update and the wonderful good news. Congratulations and may you have along and wonderful life.
Cathie Fowler - April 30, 2022 5:53 pm
Was almost afraid to continue reading. Thank you for a heartwarming story with a happy ending. God bless Grandpas!
jstephenw - April 30, 2022 6:12 pm
Thank you so much for something a little positive in my day. You are the best Sean. Hey to Jamie.
Sandy Fopiano - April 30, 2022 6:46 pm
God Bless You, Sean !!!! Always have the perfect words for all of us. Thank You !!
CHARALEEN WRIGHT - April 30, 2022 6:47 pm
Lois Quier - April 30, 2022 6:47 pm
Thank you for sharing . I am so greatful for that little girls recovery, for her wonderful Grandfather, and that she has a real dance with him at her wedding! What a wonderful story. What a wonderful Grandpa. Thank you God!
Wanda - April 30, 2022 8:35 pm
Oh great.Thanks Sean. I just got rid of a headache and now you’ve made me cry and it will probably come right back. But you know, it might just be worth it! Thanks for always making my day. You’re a keeper!☺️👍🙏
Sandy - April 30, 2022 8:45 pm
Tears, that was a beautiful story.. I pray for her continued progress.
MAM - April 30, 2022 9:51 pm
I love stories with happy endings, so much better than the other kind! Thanks, Sean.
Sonya Tuttle - April 30, 2022 9:55 pm
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow!
Steve McCaleb - April 30, 2022 10:33 pm
I have but 3 things to say…(1) St Jude…(2). St Jude…(3). St Jude. Oh …make that 4. Thank you God.
Susan Mitchell - April 30, 2022 10:45 pm
Rusty Moulton - May 1, 2022 12:01 am
Yes I’d like to know. Blessings come in many ways. Thank you for this way. Hope the rest of her life is filled with grandpa love ❤️
Chris Conley - May 1, 2022 12:04 am
Oh dear. I love your work but this one has killed me!!! It is a wonderful tribute to love andmit is going to take me a while to recover.
Kathy - May 1, 2022 12:07 am
Kay Harrison - May 1, 2022 12:16 am
As a grandmother of a little one who was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of ten months, your article touched my heart in so many ways. With many prayers and thankful hearts, my granddaughter is a vibrant, thriving four year old, wise beyond her years and, thank the Good Lord, cancer free. Thank you for making more people aware that childhood cancer is not a rarity. Of all the millions of dollars given to cancer research, only a small percentage of those dollars is directed to childhood cancer. And to all those young warriors and survivors, keep fighting! You’ve got an army right there with you!
Carolyn - May 1, 2022 12:59 am
Roger - May 1, 2022 1:48 am
BJean - May 1, 2022 1:49 am
Thank you so much for letting us know!!!
Debbie - May 1, 2022 2:01 am
Thank you, Sean.🕊
Mike Martin - May 1, 2022 2:35 am
Mary Frances Jones - May 1, 2022 2:42 am
Keith Easter. - May 1, 2022 2:58 am
Sweaty eyes, anyone? Prayers were not mentioned. You can count on them happening.
Robin - May 1, 2022 4:20 am
You’re a good man, Sean Dietrich! Thank you for sharing this encouraging story!
Ann Marie Bouchet - May 1, 2022 4:54 am
That one just made me happy….thank you, Sean
Ellouise - May 1, 2022 12:51 pm
Oh my goodness! Thank you
Julie, RN - May 1, 2022 1:26 pm
A most beautiful example of the Power of Prayer✝️
Sheila - May 1, 2022 2:36 pm
Cheryl - May 1, 2022 7:31 pm
Thank you for this story and the one about Walt. In these days with so many awful things happening i appreciate So very much the stories you share.
Margaret Cade - May 1, 2022 7:34 pm
Beautiful story. ❤️
W. Matthews - May 1, 2022 8:21 pm
That is just beautiful!! Thank you!
Karen H. - May 1, 2022 9:07 pm
An amazing grandpa and granddaughter. Thank goodness for prayer and modern medicine. I am thankful you deep us grounded with stories like this and lie Santa. There are so many good people in this world, including you.
Kate - May 2, 2022 12:56 am
We lost our niece who was 43 to brain cancer 4 years ago. She left behind a wonderful husband, an amazing son, and a beautiful, caring daughter. My brother and his wife will grieve forever over their lost child, as does my husband over his lost son. Cancer is so very, very, hard. So glad this sweet child had a happy ending.
Melissa Armstrong - May 2, 2022 2:21 am
Linda freeman - May 2, 2022 11:16 am
Thank you so much for this post. My 7 year old grandson is battling leukemia for the second time in his young life and you are so right. Cancer is hard and seeing a child fight it is often unbearable. But we have hope and are walking this journey with him one day at a time.
Dawn - May 3, 2022 4:12 pm
Beautiful! And spot on, as usual!!
Kimberly Kempken - May 4, 2022 7:42 pm
Chills, absolute chills
patriciacameron - May 4, 2022 8:51 pm
Love this. Thank you for sharing hope for today.
Page Leftwich - May 5, 2022 1:04 am
Thank you for this wonderful true story
Jean - May 6, 2022 12:09 pm
Sean, your stories are better than eye drops for dry eyes….you keep my eyes moist and shiny. Thank you.
Daphne Woodall - May 7, 2022 3:52 pm
I never had a granddad or cancer. I’m glad it ended well. But you made me cry and I will again when my son gets married in a few weeks after Covid delayed their celebration for two years.
Dale Parsons - May 10, 2022 6:41 pm
Wonderful. Thank God.