“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.” ~Nelson Mandela
It is a quote with many versions and attributed to many people, but the message remains the same. The fearless are not brave. It’s the terrified who face their fears that are brave, and it is the brave, who others draw courage from.
On Sept. 16, 2015, the world was turned upside down for a mother and her eleven-year-old. Nicole Cloutier was a single mom when her son, Luke Edmunds, was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia.
According to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, “AML is a fast-growing form of cancer of the blood and bone marrow.” Because of how fast it grows, it is a difficult disease to treat and has a survival rate of 26 percent even with therapy.
Luke was hospitalized the same day as his diagnosis. For six-and-a-half months, he called the hospital home while undergoing intensive chemotherapy. He spent his days building Star Wars Lego kits and undergoing treatment.
He missed the premiere of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens and tried to avoid getting spoilers from the nurses.
The nurses would eventually contact a local theater to request a private screening just for him; the theater opened early, and he was released from the hospital for the day to see it.
Nicole lived at the hospital with him through his treatment while working remotely for the Madison County District Attorney’s office as a paralegal and victim advocate.
Less than a month earlier, he and his mom had gone to California; they’d delved into LEGOLAND, gone swimming with dolphins at Sea World, visited Disneyland, explored the San Diego zoo and built sandcastles with professional sand sculptors.
Nicole said she was glad they were able to go to California before the diagnosis because the intensive chemotherapy used to treat his AML had damaged his heart.
Luke went into heart failure. He was life-lifted from McLane’s Children’s Scott & White Hospital in Temple to Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston.
“On Valentine’s Day last year, they sat me down and told me he wasn’t going to make it,” Nicole said. “They didn’t think they could keep him alive long enough for his heart to recover.”
At the time, Nicole was dating David Glickler, Hays County Judge at the Court of Law #2, who had not yet met her son, until David offered to take turns staying with Luke at the hospital. He and Luke got to know each other and became close while David took turns with his mother.
“After they told me that he was going to die, Luke said he wanted us to get married,” Nicole said. “So we got married in the intensive care unit at Texas Children’s.”
Along with a stepfather, Luke also got an older brother and sister in David’s kids, Austin and Morgan.
But Luke had also always wanted to visit Paris. The hospital social workers and the cancer counselors at the cancer center referred him to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation sends out a volunteer to interview the kids who are eligible for the program. Eligibility is determined on whether the child has a life-threatening condition, is between the ages of two and a half and eighteen years of age and has not received a wish from another wish granting organization.
As part of his application, he wrote a letter explaining why he wanted to go to Paris and what he wanted to see.
Nicole said he was counting on it throughout his treatment; however, after they were told he was going to die, David’s nieces, who had been to Paris, made him a slideshow of the “sights of Paris” so he could visit while in the hospital.
In July 2016, Nicole said she received a call with the news Luke would be granted a wish. Lauren Hargraves, a Make-A-Wish volunteer, then interviewed Luke to learn what his biggest wish was. In November 2016, Make-A-Wish called and told her his wish to visit Paris had been approved.
“We were thrilled and grateful that Luke would get this wonderful experience that he had dreamed of while clinging to life,” Nicole said. “It helps to ease the painful memories of the things he had to go through during treatment.”
She was told it would be about a year before they could grant his wish.
“It was good the trip would take time to plan,” Nicole continued. “At the time, Luke was still very sick.”
After being released from the hospital, he wasn’t allowed out in public because of his compromised immune system, and he had to undergo regular blood transfusions because his bone marrow was not producing blood cells.
After, Luke participated in the McLane Charity Golf Classic as a spokeschild, who stands at the holes to greet golfers and thank them for coming. The tournament raises money for the Children’s Miracle Network hospitals.
Nicole said he was the first kid to volunteer to speak at the event. “There wasn’t a dry eye in in the house.”
Luke said he didn’t write a speech; he just said it from the heart with the help of his stepdad. His mom had to take over at one point during his speech because he couldn’t stop crying, he said.
Nicole added that after his speech, Tootsie Roll Industries went on to win the charity’s silent auction and gave Luke the contents, which included a tiny helmet signed by Emmett Smith and a football signed by Jason Witten and Randy White.
At the event, he was able to meet celebrities like Randy White and Miss America and several others.
On Sunday, July 16, Make A Wish hosted an announcement party at Pluckers in San Marcos. While the itinerary wasn’t ready for the event, Luke got his bag of goodies for the trip as well as other information about their departure.
Luke got his bag of goodies for the trip as well as other information about their departure. Included in his bag of goodies was a letter, which will allow him to meet the pilot and crew of the aircraft.
Luke said he wanted to go to Paris because he is part French, and he likes art; while he’s there, he hopes to see the Mona Lisa and visit the catacombs and the Eiffel Tower.
On July 25, Luke, Nicole, David, Austin and Morgan will take off for their Paris adventure from the Atlanta Airport.
Thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, another child’s wish will come true this summer. According to the non-profit’s website, Make-A-Wish Central & South Texas has granted over 3,000 wishes in their region.
The Make-A-Wish Central & South Texas website says,
“According to the results of a 2011 Wish Impact Study that surveyed wish parents, health professionals, and Make-A-Wish® volunteers, a wish come true empowers children with life-threatening medical conditions to fight harder against their illnesses. When wish kids are granted a wish, they get more than just a great experience for a day, two days, or a week. That experience improves the quality of life for them and their entire family.”
The family will stay at an Airbnb and cook with a French chef as part of a charity program, in which restaurants extra ingredients are collected up and used in a meal for the less fortunate.
Airbnb’s are growing in popularity over other forms of lodging; homeowners around the world offer their homes to travelers as vacation accommodations for a fee.
While Luke is officially in remission, it’ll be four more years before he’s considered cancer-free. There is a 50 percent chance he could relapse. He will continue to see a cardiologist due to the damage to his heart, but after beating cancer, I don’t think anything will slow this courageous young man down.
Good luck Luke and enjoy Paris!
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