Turning a Bad News Diagnosis Into Good

Turning a Bad News Diagnosis Into Good

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brandon-inge-with-cancer-boy.jpgEven though the cancer has spread throughout Noah’s body, and he is on methadone and twice-a-day steroids to lower the pain, his courage and joy and exuberance and perseverance are miracles to witness.

The boy spent as much time at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott’s Childrens Hospital as he did at home. On June 4th, during an autograph session at the hospital, Brandon Inge, 3rd baseman for the Detroit Tigers, signed a picture for Noah and that night, Noah saw Brandon on TV during a Tigers game, becoming an instant fan. Noah watched every Tigers game after that and one day after his fifth birthday, during a fundraising for Mott Children’s Hospital, Brandon presented him with a signed ball.

September is Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month. If you click on the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital website, you can’t help but notice that “Cancer is the leading cause of death by disease among U.S. children between infancy and age 15.” 11,000 new cases of pediatric cancer are expected to be diagnosed each year.

Noah Scott Biorkman, a patient at Mott Children’s Hospital, was diagnosed with Stage IV Neuroblastoma in February 2007, a type of cancer that occurs in infants and young children.

He was 2 ½ years of age and after an aggressive regimen of chemotherapy, went into remission, but he relapsed last September.
Noah’s mother wrote on her www.carepages.com website that the scans showed that Noah “wasn’t going to make it.” She asked him what he would like to do. His answer was to see his favorite ballplayer again and ask him to hit a home run “just for me”, and to go to another game.

The hospital contacted Brandon’s wife, Shani, to tell her that Noah’s health was “rapidly deteriorating” and of Noah’s wish. When Brandon was told about Noah, he decided to come and visit him. In the afternoon before a Tigers home game, Brandon and Shani came to the Biorkmans’ house and stayed for over two hours.

“After Noah showed Brandon his room and his basement full of toys, they played,” Diana wrote. “Brandon signed a jersey for Noah and they exchanged friendship bracelets that Brandon is still wearing. Then, they built a pillow fort with every pillow in my house. Brandon sat in one end and Noah sat in the other. They hung out together, just the two of them” and Noah offered to share his superhero tattoos with Brandon and Shani’s two kids.

That night, Brandon hit a home run during his first at-bat. Noah’s mom wrote, “Noah jumped up and down and yelled—He did it for me! He did it for me! Then he heard his name and he gave the look of wonder and turned to my mom and said, ‘I never thought I would hear my name on TV.’”

In the moments after he homered, Brandon Inge broke down into tears in the Tigers dugout. “I lost it,” Brandon said. “I was crying. That’s never happened to me during a game before.”

The home run hit for Noah was not the first hit for an ailing child this year. On June 23, Inge visited Tommy Schomaker while he was recovering from heart-transplant surgery and that night, with “Tommy” written with a black marker on Inge’s arm, he hit a home run.

“Disney couldn’t have written a better script,” Tommy’s father admitted to an AP reporter. According to Mike Schomaker, “Kids were coming into the room with IVs, ‘Tommy, did you see your name? You’re on TV! You’re on TV!’”

Because of the time and money that the Inges donated to help fund a $750 million hospital for women and children, the University of Michigan hospital proclaimed September 2nd “Brandon and Shani Inge Day.”

Since the memorable home runs, Noah’s wishes continued to come true. He went to a few Tigers games, visited the Tigers clubhouse, gave 45 friendship bracelets to the entire Detroit baseball team, was featured with his mom and dad on ESPN, enjoyed a helicopter ride over Comerica Park before a game, and, perhaps best of all, Brandon presented to him the signed home run ball. Noah spent more time with Brandon and Shani at home, and was baptized a week before a golf outing in his honor.

Even though the cancer has spread throughout Noah’s body and he is on methadone and twice-a-day steroids to lower the pain, his courage and joy and exuberance and perseverance are miracles to witness.

Noah survived to make his Make-A-Wish golf outing on September 18th in Northville, Michigan. Although Brandon was in Minnesota with the Tigers that day, his wife, Shani, golfed with 103 others, to raise money for the Noah Scott Biorkman Foundation and Make-A-Wish.

Diana Biorkman, Noah’s mom, said at the golf outing that Noah understands his body is sick and that he will die and “become an angel.” Yet, she and her family know what a gift they’ve been given and what a miracle Noah’s life has been.

Because of heroes like the Inges, the doctors, and nurses at Mott Hospital, because of the courage of Noah’s parents and family and the support of friends, the tragedy of a little boy struck with terminal cancer has become an incredible lesson about giving and love and making wishes come true..

Arnie Goldman has been married for 24 years to wife Judy and they have three children. He is the president of a small wholesale distributor in Michigan and has written two books, Five Fathers and Outlive Me: Thirty Years of Poems and Writings.