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MOM'S WISH GRANTED: For a cancer patient with little time

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left, a son's graduation is a cherished gift

http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/arti ... /605060408

May 6, 2006

Cheryl Mullen, 48, left, savors her time with her son Steve Myles Jr., 17, center, along with her sister Sandra Mullen, back left, and her aunt Clara Smedley, 75, right. Steve's graduation from King High School took place at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit on Friday. (ROMAIN BLANQUART/Detroit Free Press)

Cheryl Mullen had just one wish: To see her youngest son graduate from high school before she dies.

But the cancer eating away at her insides was moving too fast for doctors to assure her she'd make it to the June 5 date.

So the graduation came to her.

On Friday, family, friends and Henry Ford Hospital workers gathered to watch 17-year-old Steve Myles Jr. accept his diploma in the lobby of the hospital's second floor, just down the hall from his mother's room in the in-patient oncology wing.

Nurses passed out tissues that sobbing -- but smiling -- relatives took by the handful.

"Her focus since the beginning was not on dying," nurse Sharon Blessman said through tears. "Her focus was on June 2006. She said, 'I will see my son graduate,' so we had to make this happen for her."

Myles, who flipped his tassel from the left to the right after receiving his diploma from King High School in Detroit. Assistant principal William Morgan, said the experience was overwhelming.

"I hope she can make it to my real one," he said.

Myles -- whose father, also named Steve Myles, attended the Friday ceremony -- has taken care of his mother since she was diagnosed with lung cancer about four years ago.

As she endured several bouts of chemotherapy and radiation, she would cough and vomit uncontrollably at night. Myles would get her out of bed to help soothe her.

He said he didn't join any clubs or athletics at school because he wanted to be near her. He also skipped parties this year, his senior year, because he said his only after-school activity is "taking care of my mom."

Mullen's cousin, Darlene Mathis, said Mullen only learned Thursday of the special Friday graduation ceremony.

"She said, 'Oh my God! No, you didn't!' " said Mathis, who bought her cousin a pink, floral dress to wear for the occasion.

Mullen, 48, was wheeled from her second-floor room to the lobby area for the ceremony. She didn't speak -- her voice is too weak and she has to wear an oxygen mask -- but she closed her eyes tight as her son received his diploma.

Myles then hugged and kissed his mother before she was taken back to her room.

Mathis said the illness has brought mother and son closer together.

"Whatever she did for him when he was a baby and growing up, he did for her when she was sick," she said. "She worried sometimes that he was spending more time taking care of her, when all she really wanted was to see him graduate."

Her older son, 20-year-old Nathaniel Mullen, came home from college at Alabama A&M as her illness progressed. He now works in construction.

Myles is working part-time at a McDonald's restaurant to help pay the bills.

He said he might accept an internship at Henry Ford as an X-ray technician after he graduates, or he may attend culinary arts school.

But first, he said, he wants to help his mother live out her final days in hospice care at home.

"I'm her baby," he said.

Contact CHASTITY PRATT at (313) 223-4537 or pratt@freepress.com.

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