It was November 2010 and I was at a book signing at the Chronicle Book Fair in Queensbury. Part of my book sales are donated to the foundation so I always have brochures on hand. A woman from a used book store came over and asked if I was having a fundraiser for Nick Heald. I asked who he was and she explained that he was a senior from South Glens Falls who had cancer. I explained that Nick was my son and his Caring Bridge site was NickHealed. The connection sparked. She told me about the South Glens Falls Marathon Dance run by local kids at that high school. They raise money and donate the funds to local charities or people who really needed it. My interest was piqued.
The idea of this book wasn’t quite formulated at that point. When I was sure I wanted to write it, I asked Natalie Mahler, the Child Life Specialist at The Melodies Center for recommendations of teens fighting cancer who also were involved in giving back. I received an email from Nick’s mom, Amy Gurdo, that Nick had just finished his final round of chemo. Amy had picked up the foundation’s brochure and saw the Fight to be Healed slogan and my Nick’s name. Plus Nick’s dad Chad had heard about Nick’s Fight to be Healed on the radio and wondered what Nick’s mom was up to now. The connection flourished.
These are the first two paragraphs of Nick Heald’s chapter in my book, What Makes Them Amazing: Inspiring Stories of Young Adults Fighting Cancer. There were so many connections between the two Nicks and this strongly knit family who would go to great lengths to heal their Nick.
For seven years Nick Heald fought against an enemy that threatened to keep him from the life he wanted to live. I say threatened, because if there is one thing I learned about Nick was that he is the most resilient and determined person I have ever met.
Every time Nick relapsed my heart sank. I worried. I fretted. When was this young man going to get a break? I’m sure Nick worried too, but he didn’t let it stop him. He went to college. He graduated. He got a great job, and he lived his life with passion, understanding that tomorrow wasn’t guaranteed. He married the love of his life.
Maybe that was the key. Nick knew he had to live in the moment, and he wasn’t going to waste any time being bothered by what he couldn’t control. He threw himself into what he loved and was passionate about.
From what I have seen, he was most passionate about his wife, Courtney. Although it never is enough, they lived a lifetime together. Theirs is the ultimate love story, connecting in high school and living through what some older married couples wouldn’t have been able to handle. They lived in the moment, and my heart grew every time I saw them together, loving unconditionally, being who they are right at that moment.
In my book, Nick’s Mom said, “Be in the moment. If you’re not, you are going to miss something good.”
Nick and his family and friends did that. They lived each moment like it was the the most precious moment they would ever have. That is how we should all live. Right now.
Nick, you have changed the world for the better. You have left a legacy of resiliency, true love, and the power of family. Thank you for sharing your joy and passion for life. You helped me when I was missing my boy. You will be missed terribly. I will be there for your mom and your family as you were there for me.