Imagine you are young man in high school. Excellent grades, aspiring young basketball star – the world is your oyster. Enter the back pain, the initial medical consults, and the first cancer diagnosis. Surgery and redo surgery. Basketball career over, in and out of hospitals, a new reality takes form. Repeated spine surgeries not only have the pleasure of extended hospital stays, but an unspeakable pain of which most of us could only imagine. High school goes from the best of times to the worst of times. But this young high school student would take on cancer and reveal the heart of a champion.
It would not be the first time. With his particular rare form of cancer, it would only return a few years later in college. College now on hold, this young man would go through the same process again. This champion overcame cancer, again and again, and received his degree in political science from Fairfield University. When most of us would have thrown in the towel, this outstanding individual would cross the finish line once again. Now, an aspiring young journalist in Washington DC, at the very moment, he’s fighting for his life again.
This extraordinary young man is my cousin Nick Givas. Temporarily relocating to Houston to receive radiation treatment at MD Anderson – he’s become a stranger in a strange land to receive the best treatment possible for his particular rare form of cancer. Going into his treatment, fighting again for his life, not knowing where this train is headed, the heart of Nick Givas was revealed once again:
“I challenge each and every one of you here to inspire by example…to fight the battle, no matter the cost.” (Facebook post, April 29, 2016)
Nick was of course not just addressing cancer, but all forms of sickness and injustice in the world. I share in Nick’s uncanny notion that each one of us can change the world. Each of us, one act of love at a time, can change the world. Nick continues, “together with our love, our compassion, empathy and strength—we CAN heal it. Wish me luck, I love you all.” Nick’s example reminds me of one of my favorite verses,
You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven. (Matthew 5:14-15)
So know this Nick – you are loved. You have inspired. We’ll continue to fight the good fight alongside of you. You are in our thoughts and prayers. You are not alone. You are never alone. You have, and you are, changing the world. Remember, “the stars at night are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas.” We’ll all rest tonight knowing Texas now has its new brightest star, for at least a few more weeks. And Nick, if you could hear the echo of our prayers in the form of a song, “Voices that Care” comes to mind. Though this is not Desert Storm (to the soldiers that this song was originally addressed), you’re a solider fighting for your life inspiring us all back home. Know that we “just can’t let you feel alone, when there’s so much love at home. We’re sending out to you.” Know that “the courage that you’ve known, the bravery you’ve shown, clearly lights the way.” Know “we’re all praying you remain strong”. Know that “You are the voice. You are the light.” So Nick, “Stand tall, stand proud! Voices that care are crying out loud.” Know that “When you close your eyes tonight, feel in your heart how our love burns bright”.