I had originally planned on doing an iphone (yay I have an iphone now!) photo dump from the weekend but I have some other things laying on my heart.
Those of you that have been reading a while have heard me mention that I am running a 1/2 marathon in five weeks for St. Jude. And I have also mentioned little Nick on my blog but I don't know that I have ever written out the whole story. And I want to, for my own records.
I met Nick when I was twenty years old. I was a sophomore in college and just recently became a Tridelta. I had just returned from a trip down to Memphis to visit St. Jude because it is Tridelta's philanthropy. Honestly, it was one of the reasons I chose Tridelta, because I had always known that St. Jude does big things.
When I returned from Memphis, I got a phone call from our pastors wife and a woman who has been like a second mother to me. She said that a lady she worked with knew of a little boy going for his first treatments at St. Jude that summer and wondered if I would be interested in contacting him. I remember having crazy butterflies, but I sent his mom an email and made plans to meet up with them when they returned from Memphis.
I had no idea what to expect. I had been email corresponding with his mom and I had even contacted our chapter president and told them about the Ferris family. She agreed that we should help this family in whatever way we could. I set up care package dates and even sent stuff to them myself, books, games, dvds, all things they could use in the Target House. I even sent chocolate because his mom, Christina, told me that Nick loved chocolate. I also sent stuff to his younger brother, Sean, as well.
After a few months at the Target house and St. Jude, Nick came home to receive care. I put on a pair of letters and my pearl St. Jude necklace and headed over. Mrs. Ferris opened the door for me and I saw a flash of lightening jump down the stairs and peer through the door. That was Nick's brother, Sean. Nick was moving a little more slowly but immediately reached out to hug me and shared his sweet smile with me. As someone who had never been around anyone with cancer, I wasn't expecting him to be so swollen from the meds. Here is a picture from our first meeting. (No, I wasn't swollen from meds, my face was just that round then)
Nick and I talked for a little bit and I also chatted with his mom and dad as well. They are a military family and most of their extended family lives various places throughout the United States. Fortunately, they had found a great church family and others that love them were there to support them as well. Nick had an airplane that we spent some time out in the yard flying and he ended up flying it onto the roof. He then asked me to get it down for him and after laughing at me trying to jump to reach it, we gave up:)
Throughout the fall of my junior year, we spent time sending back to school supplies and various other packages to Nick and his family, just to let them know we were thinking about them. That fall, I along with my friend Heidi came home to walk on Nick's team for cancer research through CureSearch. Here I am with Nick and his brother, Sean.
Later that fall, our chapter president, Katie, came to me with the idea of playing "Santa" for Nick and Sean. I loved it, and the chapter did too. I contacted Christina and asked her if that would be okay. She agreed and the boys sent their Santa notes to me at my apartment. They are some of my most treasured things and I look at them fondly. I got excited to go out and do the shopping and one late night in December, I arrived with a garbage bag full of Santa presents :)
The next spring carried on and despite much medical intervention, Nick was getting worse. You see, he was diagnosed in May of 2009 with DIPG (Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma) and you can read more about it here. My younger sister was a senior in high school at the time and her keyettes group put on a car wash to help raise money for the family that I came home for as well. I kept in contact with Mrs. Ferris through the spring and read the updates on her Caring Bridge as well. Here are Nat and I with Nick. He had just started having to use a wheelchair and his speech was slurring. I remember him asking for something to eat and having a hard time understanding him. He was getting frustrated with us and it was incredibly heartbreaking.
Not long after that, I came home for summer break and things took a turn for the worse for Nick. He was in the hospital in Portsmouth and I knew that I wanted to go see him and spend time with him. Heidi agreed to go with me and we got to walk into his room and hold his hand and rubbed his feet. His mom got down by his ear and told him that I had come by to see him and he immediately smiled, even with his eyes closed. I almost lost it in that moment. He had been upgraded to a Weeblo the night before by his boy scout troupe and his room was filled with colorful drawings and cards and such. I just remember burning that hour into my brain trying to remember every last detail of his little body. That was a Wednesday. That Thursday, the family asked that no one else come by, as they wanted to spend as much time with Nick as possible. On Friday morning, at 3:00 am, he passed from his mothers arms into Jesus'. They took him off the ventilator around 3:00 pm that Thursday afternoon and expected him to pass shortly after. He gave his mom twelve extra hours to hold him and I know that she is forever grateful.
I awoke the next morning with a feeling in the pit of my stomach and immediately checked my email and the caring bridge site. I will never forget reading that he had passed away. I drafted an email to the sorority and let them know what had happened and encouraged them to never quit fighting for St. Jude. I then had to finish packing to fly out to London the next day.
To say that Friday night was rough after he passed was an understatement. I made it through the day okay, letting people know slowly and asking them to say a prayer for the Ferris family. I remember hugging my mom and calling Stuart to let him know. He spent the rest of that day and night with me, at one point just holding me in my bed and letting me bawl into his shoulder (that is the one and only time he has ever been allowed in my bedroom at home). I begged him and my parents to let me stay home, I knew that I wouldn't be able to live myself if I went and had fun while this had just happened. They all told me that I had to go. That Nick would have wanted me to go. That what I had done while he was here was important, and now that he was in heaven there was nothing left for me to do. So I went. I bawled on the way to the airport, I cried on the plane and I prayed my way through the first few nights in Edinburgh. But I made it, and I am glad I went. Nick even sent me a reminder that he was okay. (Preface: Nick's favorite color was red). I saw this on the best day I had in London and I will never forget him popping up and just letting me know that it was okay.
I know that was long. But I felt like his story needed to be told in it's completion, from my point of view. This is why I am going back to school to get a second undergraduate degree. I am not a scientist and I will never find the cure for cancer. But I can help people like the Ferris family and I know that Nick led me to this path, and for that I am forever grateful. I feel so blessed to have had him in my life.
There is a little girl, Lydia that is in the same situation Nick was in and here is her family blog. They are preparing for God to take their little girl home and I know prayers for peace would be so welcomed. Lydia's mother is one of the strongest people I have ever seen. Here is their blog.
Nick would have been 10 at the beginning of October and I know that he is up there right now, hopefully he has met my Poppi and is showing my cousin Kaleb around heaven. Knowing that he was there when Kaleb passed helped give me such comfort and I will never be able to repay what Nick gave me through his life. He taught me to pray again, to have faith and believe and to trust the true peace that only God can give.
If you made it all the way through, I am impressed. I promise to be back tomorrow with something that is a little less heart heavy. Love you Nick, and thank you always.