Running through tragedy

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In June of 2008, my oldest son, Nick, fought an ear infection and had a supposed allergic reaction to his antibiotic. After continuous trips to the doctor, we visited a dermatologist. On July 4th, we planned to walk to the Town of Clifton Park’s parade. Our boys would catch candy, but in recent years, Nick gave the candy away to the younger kids and kept the Double Bubble gum. My husband, Lucas, told me we needed to get Nick down to Albany Medical Center immediately because something was very wrong with his blood work. Our lives were forever changed when a compassionate oncologist named Dr. Porter gently informed us that Nick had Leukemia. Having a child with cancer is possibly every parent’s worst nightmare. It was mine. As Lucas and I tried to get a handle on this devastating news, Nick asked whether the hospital had wifi. In his mind he was already working on how he would get through this. 

The first month Nick was ravenous from Prednisone and would wake me at 6 am with a recipe forming in his head. He would beg me to hurry to the store to purchase the ingredients. Nick’s Special Sandwich was created that month. It’s vital to get a cancer patient in remission in the first month. Nick was only at 50% remission. After the second month, he became a candidate for a bone marrow transplant. As we waited for a donor (which seemed close to impossible because Nick’s type was rare), Nick experienced every setback possible. But during this time, a positive and rather nonchalant attitude just oozed from Nick. He kept us strong. 

In September, a donated umbilical cord matched Nick. He was almost in remission and received a high dose of chemotherapy. In response, Nick developed appendicitis, other severe infections and was incredibly ill. He spent 21 days straight in the hospital except for the few times we were able to escape for an outing. He couldn’t have visitors and was basically shut off from his world. He celebrated his 13th birthday on October 7th in the hospital. On October 18th he was officially in remission. The next day I celebrated my birthday and his remission was the perfect gift. Two days later his little brother, Stephen, celebrated his 11th birthday and Nick was home to celebrate. But our happiness and hopes were shattered on October 26th when Nick died from complications of chemotherapy and cancer. 

What you do in the face of adversity defines you. Nick rose up to the challenge of cancer and although he lost his battle, he never gave up. Nick’s slogan ‘Fight to be Healed’ became the mantra behind his foundation – Nick’s Fight to be Healed Foundation, Inc. While remembering an incredible young man who changed lives, we support local pediatric cancer patients and their families with financial and emotional assistance. We do this by helping them with mortgage payments, medical bills, travel expenses or car repairs. Our comfort bags bring much needed joy and encouragement to young adults who spend days and months at home or in the hospital away from their normal routine. In addition, we support the clinic’s Child Life Specialist – a position which is funded only through donations and grants, but is equally as vital as the medicine each child receives. 

Last year, Gina Peca and Larry Hoch of the Catie Hoch Foundation (another local charity that supports pediatric cancer patients) asked Nick’s Foundation to take over their very successful Catiebug for a Cure 5K. We accepted this honor and challenge. The 1st Annual Catiebug Fight to be Healed 5K Run is being held on Sunday, September 26th with registration starting at 10:30 am. Our goal is to raise $50,000 and have 500 runners. Please visit www.fighttobehealed.org for more information. It takes more than medicine to cure cancer – it takes love, hope and fighting back.

 

 

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