BUFFALO, NY - A hospital can often be a cold, sterile place, and probably the last place you'd expect to find love. That's especially true if you're just 12-years-old. But Stella Usiak and Lucas Lowe have found a very special friendship while both fighting a very serious disease.
"She's had a crush on me for a while now, and I've had a crush on her, so her and me are boyfriend and girlfriend now," said Lucas.
Stella describes Lucas as hilarious and "a gentleman." And Lucas describes Stella as kind and nice, "like a woman should be," he said.
Lucas and Stella first met when they both started fighting Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Both went into remission, then both relapsed. Both had bone marrow transplants and both have constantly been in and out of hospitals, including Roswell Park Cancer Institute.
"He worries about how I'm feeling just like I worry about how he feels," said Stella.
The hospital staff has watched their special friendship grow.
"No one really knows what a kid with cancer is going through- not the parent, not the nurse, not a friend- the only other person that knows what a kid with cancer is going through is another kid with cancer," said Roswell Park Registered Nurse Angelica Zachara.
Understandably, Lucas and Stella's dates have to be simple, and they're ok with that. They have lunch, Lucas pushes Stella in her wheelchair, and they just talk.
"It was like this cute little old couple, sitting on the porch. It's very rare that kids their age could kind of have that sort of compassion for each other," said Stella's mom, Jennifer Usiak.
They say mostly their conversations do not revolve around their disease and treatment. They just chat about normal kid stuff. While they are mature and different from most kids, they're young and innocent, too.
"She just wants a boy to like her. She just wants to have somebody make her feel special," said Stella's mom.
As for kissing? They admit they have kissed on the cheek.
"We're not really supposed to kiss without a mask but she does it anyway," said Lucas.
When times get really tough- the pain too much to bear- Stella and Lucas know how to lift each others spirits. You can see it in this video Lucas made for Stella.
"It made her feel special and she cried and I cried," said Lucas.
"It was amazing. I've never felt that way in my life, ever," said Stella. "It made me so happy. It made me feel like I'm a princess."
For better or for worse, in sickness and in health. That vow truly means something to the young couple, so Lucas gave Stella a ring for Valentine's Day.
"It says 'You are my sunshine. My only sunshine.' And yeah, it means a lot," said Stella.
Most parents would discourage kids from that kind of commitment, but the parents of Stella and Lucas don't see it that way.
"Cancer teaches you, you are not guaranteed tomorrow," said Maureen Warren, Lucas' mom.
Stella and Lucas are thankful for each day they have together.
"I'm so lucky," said Stella. "Yes, I have been given all these bumps in the road, and all this yucky stuff,but if I never got that, I wouldn't have met Lucas."
Doctors might not yet have found a cure for childhood cancer, but these two children found the healing power of love.