Her name has become a rallying cry, a catalyst, an inspiration and the reminder of cruel possibilities. Cancer isn't supposed to come after children, but it does.
In two years, Megan has gone from an ordinary little girl — a student at Kitty Stone Elementary School, who loved playing softball and was a huge Alabama fan — to local symbol in the fight against cancer.
To call Megan a hero is unfair. Given the option, she'd be happy to go back to being just another sixth-grade girl, worrying about the things girls worry about.
Megan didn't want this responsibility. It was thrust upon her when a boring injury while running the bases one summer afternoon revealed a tumor in her foot. She shaved her head as a preemptive strike in the same salon where her mom — diagnosed with breast cancer — sat and watched her hair drift to the floor.
I remember that day. I watched Megan smile at the way her bald, pink scalp felt in the breeze, trying to be brave like her mother would have wanted and her father desperately needed. Megan never looked sad — scared, yes, but not sad. I like to think that she discovered something about herself that day, something she'd never needed before, but that she needed now.
Megan Brittain became a fighter. Even as more tumors appeared, after all the surgeries, all the chemotherapy and the liver problems that left her skin a pale yellow, after the doctors said there was little left to do, Megan continues to fight.
It's the kind of courage that all parents hopes their children are capable of, while praying to God they'll never need it.
Team Megan raised thousands of dollars for cancer research. That is her legacy, putting a face and a force behind the fight to cure a disease that attacks indiscriminately.
That legacy was celebrated when Monday was declared Megan Brittain Day in Jacksonville.
Hundreds poured out from the parking lot of Kitty Stone Elementary, all wearing the Team Megan T-shirts. They were work-a-day warriors gathered to show their support not only for the little girl with cancer, but as a unified promise to keep fighting no matter what.
The crowd settled in the grass of the square, munching on blue snow cones and blue wisps of cotton candy. Kids had "We love you Megan" painted in blue on their cheeks, blue being Megan's favorite color. There was a marching band, a fire truck, speeches from teachers, city and state officials, even the mascots from JSU and Alabama hammed it up for the cameras.
And hugs … so many hugs.
For two hours the joyful parade played out. Little kids sat perched on their fathers' shoulders or stood on tiptoes hoping to sneak a peak at the source of all the excitement. In those brief moments of silence, whispers could be heard from those same small voices. "Mommy, what's cancer?" one girl in pigtails asked, "Is she going to die?"
The answers are as unfair and mysterious as the reasons they were being asked. But what was clear is that a lasting memory was captured that cloudy night in May. And every parent in the crowd went home and hugged their children a little tighter.
Megan is a hero for many reasons, but the greatest reason is because she single-handedly reminds us all just how precious life is.
That is why she fights — so that someday not too far away maybe others won't have to.