Kristen Seward | Lens of Hope

Young man wearing glasses looking at the camera

He reached into a large ziploc bag stuffed with candy, and handed me an opened bag of Dove chocolate hearts. I’m never one to turn down chocolate, so I took one and told him I would save it for the drive home. I gathered up my bags and turned for the door when he asked, “Can I give you a hug?”

A heartfelt hug is the other thing I’ll never turn down; we were two for two. 

“You know, you’ve been initiated into his tribe now,” his mom said, and I grinned because I knew this was Micah’s currency.

It was these little exchanges that had also endeared his doctors and nurses to him from the very beginning of his ordeal.

Micah’s story is the kind that would incite paranoia in any parent. At first, his dad noticed that his gait had changed during his soccer games earlier that Fall. This, along with several weeks of severe headaches and nausea finally prompted his mom, Tisha, to take him to their local urgent care center in December of 2021 after a particularly bad day. She had figured he was getting migraines, as she suffered from them frequently herself.

But after the doctor ran a CT scan, he returned to their room and was visibly emotional.

There was a mass on Micah’s brain and an ambulance was waiting to transport them to Children’s Hospital at VCU, where the neurosurgery team had already been notified. Once there, an MRI brought more clarity: an olive-sized tumor was sitting on top of Micah’s pineal gland, blocking brain fluid from draining properly into his spinal column. By 10 pm, he was in the first of three surgeries. Two additional masses were also discovered and the team quickly put together a plan for his treatment, which included several rounds of chemo and radiation. 

After meeting Micah, it didn’t take long for me to see how he was easily a bright light for the staff in the clinic, even for other patients and their families. During his chemo treatments, which happened in the spring leading up to Easter, he wore the iconic pink bunny suit from “A Christmas Story,” skipping and hopping around the floor with a basket full of chocolates to hand out to the staff.

But this was so much more than a teen with a larger-than-life personality, even more than a gesture of thanks: it was compassion, and a soul depth that made his caretakers feel seen and loved.

Micah’s recovery and healing have been nothing short of astounding. To see him now, you would never know that he’s had to relearn even the most basic of physical abilities, like sitting up on his own, and walking. He still goes to the gym several times a week and works with a personal trainer to improve his balance and strength.

But this is about so much more than his recovery.

This isn’t actually about how a small tumor—sitting in just the wrong place—took away nearly every physical ability he had, but instead, what it didn’t take away: his ability to connect deeply with every person who took care of him, and to find the good in even the toughest moments. 

This isn’t about how a 10 minute scan made devastating sense of months of “what if’s” and worries. Instead, the Coffins would likely tell you it made crystal clear the humanity and good that surrounded them from that point forward.

These are metrics worth measuring and writing about because they’re sustained by hope. They may be intangible, but they’re just as real.

On my way home that afternoon, I remembered the Dove chocolate in my coat pocket and opened up the shiny foil paper, noting the little quote on the inside of the wrapper.

And I smiled, because it was as if Micah had written it himself: “Hug someone today.”

Dad sitting on a coach, mom is hugging her son
Photos and story by: Kristin Seward/Lens of Hope
4 photos of Micah in the hospital or doing PT
3 photos of Micah wearing a pink bunny suit giving candy to nurses

Micah wearing glasses looking at the camera