Remembering Nick on Independence Day

July 4 is a day to celebrate independence and the freedom our forefathers fought for us to have every day. 10 years ago, it became the day Nick was diagnosed with leukemia.

I believe there is emotional scar tissue with trauma. As July 4 approaches, I feel lethargic, sad, and loaded down with the grief I work to overcome every day. My mind and body know what’s coming. Once July 4 starts, even though I don’t relive all the terrible moments of his cancer journey, part of my mind and body remembers it. The emotions find their way to the surface.

1999 July 4
July 4, 1999

But just as there is emotional scar tissue, there also is emotional endurance that fortifies me with a strong foundation to get back up when the scar tissue limits my ability to live life to my fullest.


Nick t-shirt
July 4, 2008–the day Nick was diagnosed

What gives me this endurance? Surrounding myself with family and friends who lift me up. Those who came the day we heard the news, took care of us when we had to say goodbye, and have supported us over the last 10 years.

They know when I’m faltering, when Stephen needs space, when Luke needs a distraction. I don’t have to say a word, because they know today is a very hard day, but we live it remembering an amazing, enthusiastic, and fun boy who was taken took soon.

Over the years, I have learned what I need to do to break up the scar tissue and provide self-care. Sometimes, I do really well, and I think yes, I can do this. When I think of Nick I smile and reminisce about my two energetic boys who were inseparable.

Other times, I’m flat on the floor, as another friend described it, and I can’t imagine going through the rest of my life without one of my sons to hold, talk to, and share his life experiences with. These are the times when my foundation of family and friends soften my fall and stretch the scar tissue until I can stand again.

I’m in a place today where I am searching for the good. I am grateful for Stephen and so very proud of him. He is doing what he needs to do to live with his loss, and I respect that. My husband is my biggest foundation and knows when he has to catch me. I try to catch him as well. We are continually learning what we each need and give one another the space to grow and grieve.

When I fall and take a hard hit, I give myself permission to reach out. I know I don’t have to be strong all the time. I’m not. I can’t be. Last month was one of those times, and I am grateful for my family and friends for saving me from falling off the cliff.

Losing a child is not an easy journey. Having a child with cancer is not easy either. It’s a road of ups and downs, fears and triumphs. Cancer steals more than our independence.

Today I wish everyone a Happy and healthy 4th of July. For those missing their children, have people to catch you when you fall. We are here for you. For our families currently battling, never give up and keep fighting. For everyone touched by a life-threatening disease, savor every moment and always have hope.

Much love to my boy.  We have lots of Double Bubble to give at the parade. Always in my heart.

Nick’s Round Table–Camelot at its Best

Two years ago when many of Nick’s friends who were members of Nick’s Round Table graduated, I feared that this incredibly motivated group would diminish. Under the guidance of Nick’s younger brother, Stephen, and an amazing board, this group has flourished. Although not everyone comes to the meetings, we have over 100 members of Nick’s Round Table who continue to help out when they are home from college or have started their own groups at their school.

Over the past two years, Nick’s Round Table has increased the media library at The Melodies Center Clinic, shopped and handed out over 50 Nick’s Comfort Bags, put together 160 Family Hope Bags, implemented the Holiday program where families received bags of food for Thanksgiving and gifts for Christmas, raised money at Nick’s Run with a very fun carnival, and are in the process of installing a Teen Technology Room at the new HEMONC rooms on D7 at Albany Medical Center. This is on top of keeping up with school, jobs, sports and other extracurricular activities.

Stephen has told me that he’s concerned about the future of Nick’s Round Table when he leaves and that Nick’s spirit is what guides this group. This is something that can’t be forgotten. Now he didn’t mean that by him leaving it would fall apart. What he meant was that as the founding members, of which he was one, leave how do we keep the spirit of Nick alive among young adults who didn’t know him? For example, we hand out Double Bubble gum at our July 4th parade because that was Nick’s favorite.

I believe that Stephen and the other seniors who were very close to Nick and Stephen have built a very strong and durable foundation for this group. Plus, they have a very positive and emotionally charged new board who will do astounding things this year.

Thank you to the outgoing board:
Stephen Cammarata, President
Katie Collins and Sammie Sagnelli, Co-vice presidents
Emily Hayes, Treasurer
Julia Geisel, Secretary
Dante Cilento, Fundraising Chair
Emily Patchell, Media Library Chair
Colin Rowe, Technology Chair

Welcome to the new board:
Katie Collins and Sammie Sagnelli, Co-presidents
Erin Doescher and Kendra Sisco, Co-vice presidents
Emily Hayes, Treasurer
Becca Abel, Secretary
Lauren Sawicki and Elizabeth Sibson, Co-Fundraising Chairs
Maddy Healy, Media Library Chair
Kate Isaksen, Technology Chair

L-R: Katie Collins, Sammie Sagnelli (cancer survivor), Erin Doescher, Kendra Sisco (cancer survivor), Emily Hayes, Becca Abel, Lauren Sawicki (not pictured: Elizabeth Sibson, Maddy Healy, Kate Isaksen)

None of they could have been done without our wonderful liaisons Diane Lange, Barb Brosnan, Annette Romano and Ann Frantti. Their guidance has been invaluable. Ann and Stephen have developed a wonderful relationship that spans generations and I think she will miss Stephen’s unique form of running a meeting!

Stephen and Ann Frantti who always understood Stephen’s thought process! Thank Goodness!

Stephen and me at the last annual gathering. We always had a great time bantering!

As I try not to think about being an empty nester in 44 days, I am so very thankful for all the teens in my life. They will not only keep Nick’s Round Table going strong in their mission to help other teens fight cancer, but they will keep me busy when I miss Stephen. Not only will I miss his craziness, loud music, and texting me for food (when he is in his room!), but I will miss running meetings with him. This group has brought us so close and I can’t imagine not having Stephen at a meeting like I have for the last 5 years. But I thank him for choosing to devote so much of his time to his brother’s memory. I look forward to working with so many new volunteers and continually building Nick’s legacy. Nick knew what he was going when he brought them all my way!

Thank you to all the graduates for your time and dedication and good luck in your future endeavors!

Some of Nick’s Round Table members preparing for July 4th parade!