My sister was always one of my biggest heroes. Being ten years older, she endowed with me so much wisdom, love, and care, that only an elder sibling can bestow. To say I was an annoying little brother, always making her look "uncool" would be an understatement. However, her character and attitude towards life led her to always have my best interest at heart. She never took anyone, or anything, for granted and knew how to make any broken soul smile.
Rachael missed her college graduation to receive the news that she had T Cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma. She was an incredibly lively, beautiful young woman ready to begin her life! She was eager to share her love with everyone because that's what she did best. She made people feel loved, valued, and appreciated. With her "can-do" attitude, the diagnosis was a mere bump in the road in what was going to be a joyous life.
Five months and over half a dozen chemotherapy sessions later, she was in remission. The following summer that we spent together epitomized the bond that only siblings can share. Rachael couldn't work yet, and I needed a babysitter -could you ask for a better combination? From fishing at the LSU lakes, to pitching tents in the living room in the middle of the day, we were both kids, cherishing what would turn out to be the dwindling of our memories together.
It would be an egregious understatement to characterize blood cancer as "aggressive." As that joyous summer came to a close and the school year began, Rachael's cancer returned more aggressively than ever. Nothing can describe the horrendous, hellacious feeling of helplessness that accompanies an immediate relapse. Doctors told us that Rachael’s only treatment option was a stem cell transplant, and I was a perfect match. Rachael underwent the transplant procedure; and for 100 days, there was unprecedented hope in the Willis family like never before. For the first time in years, my family members smiled, and even displayed fleeting traces of optimism until we were told "The cancer has returned.” Those four simple words that echoed for what seemed to be an eternity.
Rachael continued fighting, beginning the experimental chemotherapies and treatments; but the hope was dwindling. Our faith began to falter.
Finally, the time had come for her loved ones to tell this beautiful young woman goodbye. Surrounded by family and friends at OLOL, Rachael breathed her final breath and left her broken, battered body on earth to take ranks with angels.
Rachael gave more love in her short 24 years than most will in their lifetimes. She continues to be an inspiration who's lived her life as if it's not how old you are, or how much time you have, but how deeply you work to uplift others that make life worth living.
-Michael Willis, Rachael's brother