This year I have chosen to ride again in the Courage Classic to raise money for the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Childrens Hospital Colorado. Entering my 4th year as a nurse on this floor and my 5th year total on that unit my passion grows deeper with every shift. This year for Courage Classic I have chosen to ride in memory of one of my primary patients, Tony 'T-Dog' Ester.
Tony began his journey on August 10, 2017 when he was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma and earned his golden wings on December 3, 2019. It is not often that a kid comes into your life, grabs your heart, and teaches you life lessons. Tony's fight with cancer was one he took on with both fists swinging but he didn't let the fight take away his kindness for others. Tony always had a grin for his siblings or a wink for his mom and dad to let them all know he was going to be ok on those rough days.
After Tony's cancer relapsed he started to ask me questions about dying and what I thought about it and told me, "I don’t think I will live through this but if I touch other people’s lives it is ok." That night before leaving work for the day Tony invited me for a French Fry date. That night was filled with so many laughs, shared between the two of us and his family. This wasn’t the first time we had some fun. Tony was involved with the "Osteo Club" and would be seen in the back of the unit with all the other osteosarcoma patients racing their remote control cars and scaring the nurses with them. He also decided we should stage a water gun attack on his dad when he came out of the bathroom… let’s just say, we got his dad real good and laughed about it to his final moments on this earth. Then, you have all the Lego sets Tony took the time to teach me about through his many stays while receiving chemotherapy and the time we went on a hospital trip to the Rockies Spring Training where I got to celebrate with him his first swim since receiving his rotationplasy (an operation to essentially amputate the knee out of the leg and then salvage the ankle and foot in order to flip the foot backwards so the ankle then functions as a knee joint). Of course, there were also pranks played on others involving silly string, whoopee cushions, and weird sound machines.
However, what I valued most was my time I spent alone with Tony having our heart-to-heart conversations about life and his perspective on everything from Rick and Morty cartoons to why kids have cancer. These talks with him are so cherished in my heart I can't put them to words. Tony was such an old soul with so much wisdom and he had the ability to slow the days down and make you take a breath. Tony's sweet face and infectious smile will forever be engraved on not only my heart, but so many others. His impact on this world was so enormous because he only had such a short time to fit it all in. That is why I ride, because one day we will be able to look a child and say, "We figured out the cure and you will be ok!"