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Athena Orchard: Family of 13-year-old cancer victim touched by her secret note

Athena Orchard knew she was dying of bone cancer. After battling through treatments, her body finally gave in to the disease. But thanks to a secret note Athena left on the back of her bedroom mirror, which was recently discovered by her grieving family, her touching words on life, love and her tragic circumstances will serve as inspiration to others, for years to come. People.com carried the story on June 5 of the 13-year-old British schoolgirl whose message has now been viewed tens of thousands of times.

As anyone who has lost a loved one knows, the devastating task of sorting through the person’s belongings can almost be too much to bear. Parents Dean and Caroline Orchard, while going through their brave teen’s room, found something that was equal parts heartbreaking and heartwarming: a 3,000 word letter addressed to them and Athena’s siblings.

Athena had written the note with a marker and used every inch of her floor length mirror to talk to her family about moving on without her. Her words of wisdom are far beyond someone that young, and her unshakably positive attitude and beautiful perspective on life could only come from someone facing death. Athena was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer, just last year. Last week, Athena died in her home in New Parks, Leicester, surrounded by her family.

“Every day is special, so make the most of it. You could get a life-ending illness tomorrow so make the most of every day. Life is only bad if you make it bad,” Athena wrote.

Dean Orchard, 33, spoke about the discovery of his daughter’s message. “I started reading it but before long I had to stop because it was too much. It was heartbreaking,” the father said. Athena courageously underwent surgeries to remove tumors, and endured months of chemotherapy. Despite her pain, her words reflect inspiration and strength.

Happiness depends upon ourselves. Maybe it’s not about the happy ending, maybe it’s about the story. The purpose of life is a life of purpose. The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.

Caroline echoed her husband’s words: “I couldn’t believe it, I saw all this writing, it must have been about 3,000 words. It’s so touching. When I first saw it, it just blew me away,” the 37-year-old mom said. “She never mentioned it, but it’s the kind of thing she’d do. She was a very spiritual person, she’d go on about stuff that I could never understand – she was so clever.”

Caroline described Athena as “beautiful and athletic” and said she was “the bravest person I know.” She spoke of her daughter: “She was always positive, even when she was in hospital she would be looking after me, making sure I ate and telling me not to cry. We knew the cancer was very aggressive… she fought it as long as she could but eventually she became too weak to get out of bed.”

The Orchards will be keeping the mirror message forever and plan to display it in their house as a source of encouragement and comfort to the family of nine – Dean, Caroline and their seven other children. ABCNews carried a photo of the family sitting around Athena's' dying message to them. “We’re keeping the mirror forever. Just reading her words felt like she was still here with us. She had such an incredible spirit,” Dean said.

The Orchards released excerpts of Athena’s message to the Daily Mail. We're happy to bring Athena's message to you:

Happiness depends upon ourselves. Maybe it's not about the happy ending, maybe it's about the story.

The purpose of life is a life of purpose. The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.

Happiness is a direction not a destination. Thank you for existing. Be happy, be free, believe, forever young. You know my name, not my story.

You have heard what I've done, but not what I've been through. Love is like glass, looks so lovely but it's easy to shatter.

Love is rare, life is strange, nothing lasts and people change. Every day is special, so make the most of it, you could get a life ending illness tomorrow so make the most of every day. Life is only bad if you make it bad.

If someone loves you, then they wouldn't let you slip away no matter how hard the situation is. Remember that life is full of ups and downs.

Never give up on something you can’t go a day without thinking about. I want to be that girl who makes the bad days better and the one that makes you say my life has changed since I met her!

Love is not about how much you say I love you – it’s about how much you can prove it’s true. Love is like the wind, you can feel it but you can't see it. I'm waiting to fall in love with someone I can open my heart to.

Love is not about who you can see spending your future with, it's about who you can't see spending your life without... Life is a game for everyone but love is the prize. Only I can judge me.

Sometimes love hurts. Now I’m fighting myself. Baby I can feel your pain. Dreams are my reality. It hurts but it’s okay, I’m used to it.

Don't be quick to judge me, you only see what I choose to show you... you don't know the truth. I just want to have fun and be happy without being judged.

This is my life, not yours, don't worry about what I do. People gonna hate you, rate you, break you, but how strong you stand, that’s what makes you… you!

There's no need to cry because I know you'll be by my side.