If you had one last birthday wish, what would it be? For Samantha “Sam” Bieno of Portage, Wisconsin, it was kindness. Her wish was that people all over would perform random acts of kindness to friends and strangers. Sam was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in 2012. Sadly, Sam passed away April 9, a week shy of her 23rd birthday. Despite the prognosis, she did not let leukemia change the way she felt about life, according to her sister, Nicole.
“Not every day is good, but there’s good in every day. She said that a lot.”
Sam’s mother shared a little of what drove Sam to make the birthday wish she made.
“She had on her phone a quote from the Dalai Lama, ‘Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.’ That’s how she lived. She had on her bucket-list to go out on her birthday and do good deeds. On Wednesday, we were talking about it and she said she wanted everyone to do good deeds and that would be the most perfect thing.”
Her wish was granted. In her hometown, the local Culver’s gave away her favorite flavor: Cookie Dough Craving. Sam had a passion for Build-A-Bear animals. She would donate these animals to children with illnesses. For that reason, community members filled a room where her mother worked with 183 stuffed Build-A-Bears to be donated to the same cause. The outpouring of these random acts of kindness did not stop in Portage.
Mor Zolondez, a member of Sam’s online cancer support group from Israel, started a Facebook page in her honor. Once Twitter took off, her last birthday wish was granted “from sea to shining sea.” In Anchorage, Alaska, people handed sandwiches out to the needy. In Iowa, students gave out donuts to police officers.
The world can learn as much from Sam Bieno in her passing as they did in her life. She did not let her illness get her down. She faced it head on and was just as quick to help others through their illnesses. In December of 2013, Sam shared her story on the I Had Cancer Blog as a way to help others cope.
“I continued to use ‘there is good in every day’ throughout my recovery and I still use it to this day. Cancer is not only a battle of the body, but also of the mind. There is a need to take care of both as much as possible. Being positive was my way of taking care of my mental state while fighting – it was my “survival mode.” Cancer was hell for me and I prefer to never do it again, but my mantra helped me learn a lot of lessons, viewpoints, and even a new career path. Now I know that cancer can be positive, if you just stare it in the face and look at it the right way.”
On April 15, community members, along with her family, met to release 23 orange balloons on what would have been her 23rd birthday. It is safe to say that her selfless last birthday wish did indeed come true.