EDMONTON – A 10-year-old Edmonton boy, who has been fighting cancer for half of his life, is giving back to those who have helped him through his journey, mere months after deciding to stop treatment.
Aaron Maier’s battle with cancer began when he was just five years old. His mother, Teresa Skinner, says he went through multiple tests before being diagnosed with Stage 4 high-risk neuroblastoma in September 2009.
“The oncologist came and said ‘it’s cancer,'” Skinner recalled Saturday. “At diagnosis he probably had about a 10 per cent chance of making five years.”
Maier started treatment right away. He went through six rounds of chemotherapy and other treatments over the course of the next year, missing his entire Grade 1 school year.
“By that time he was pretty much NED- no evidence of disease. Most of the disease had disappeared from his body,” Skinner explained. “He was in remission and everything was good. He went back to school.”
Maier spent about one year in remission before learning his cancer had returned. Refusing to give in to the disease, the young boy went through another year of chemotherapy.
Following that, he spent six months in remission before once again learning, in June 2013, the cancer was back.
“They sat us down and said ‘it’s not going away.. we don’t know what’s going to happen. We don’t know… if the chemo will do anything this time.'”
Skinner, who has always been upfront with Maier about his cancer, says she then had to have a very real and tough conversation with her son.
“I sat him down and I said ‘you know, I don’t know how long, but you’re not going to win this time. So it’s your choice, it’s your story, you write the story. So you think about it and we’ll help you decide.'”
After a conversation with his best friend, Maier decided he wasn’t ready to give up.
“I’d rather die a hero fighting than a quitter,” he told his mother at the time.
But in November 2013, doctors told his family the cancer had spread to his entire body and was back for good.
“The doctors told us his body wouldn’t recover from the chemo anymore, the disease was too advanced,” Skinner said.
“He was devastated obviously and scared. He just said ‘mommy, do you mean I’m going to die?’ And I had to say ‘yeah. Yeah buddy you are. I’m sorry,'” Skinner said, fighting tears.
Now, as Maier’s final wish, he and his family are determined to give back to the organizations who have helped him through his fight with cancer over the past five years.
Having participated in the Hair Massacure — an event that supports children with life-threatening illnesses — for the past several years, Team Aaron is determined to make this its biggest fundraising year yet. And to help with Team Aaron’s goal of raising $50,000, the team at NOW! Radio held a bottle drive Saturday, called Empties for Aaron.
“That 10-year-old has gone through more in his life than 60-year-olds, in terms of sickness. And he remains strong, he’s a fighter. The fight in him is so inspiring,” said Fitzy, the NOW! Radio host who came up with the idea to have the bottle drive.
The radio station held another bottle drive for Maier in November last year. Fitzy says each time they do this, the generosity of those in the Capital Region just gets bigger and bigger.
“Aaron is an inspiration, is what he is. He’s a great kid and he’s got this big heart. And he wants to give back to the organizations that have helped him, so we’re happy to help him do that,” Fitzy added.
Skinner, who attended the bottle drive Saturday, says she’s overwhelmed by the amount of support her family has received, and proud of those who have helped her son reach his goal.
“He wants the cure to be found,” she said. “He just keeps saying ‘no kid should suffer like this.'”
Maier came home from the hospital Friday night.
“Now we’re just looking at what we do to make him comfortable for however much time we have left,” Skinner said.
By Friday night, Team Aaron had already raised $54,000 for the Hair Massacure, not including any funds raised at the bottle drive.
For more information on Team Aaron, or to donate to Aaron’s cause, visit the team’s website.
With files from Su-Ling Goh, Global News.