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Five–year–old baseball signee works to raise awareness for cancer research

“Superhero” Micah Ahern and his family participate in Fort Worth’s Neuroblastoma 5K Run and Walk for a Cure.

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The TCU baseball team’s youngest recruit ever is working to raise awareness for a rare childhood cancer.

Five-year-old Micah Ahern and his family participated in this year’s Neuroblastoma 5K Run and Walk for a Cure with Team Superhero Micah Ahern. This was the Ahern family’s third year to participate in the event, and Team Superhero Micah Ahern’s second.

The team’s 125 members raised more than $12,000 this year, Linda Ahern, Micah’s mother, said. All of the proceeds go directly to neuroblastoma research.

Many of those who joined the team did so after they discovered Micah’s story on his Facebook page. “Praying for Micah Ahern,” which chronicles Micah’s daily battle with neuroblastoma, has almost 5,000 “likes."

The team wore their purple “Team Superhero Micah” shirts to the 5K, and several even sported tutu skirts, wigs and neon pink tights.

Team member Michael Ray said he didn’t mind wearing a tutu and “being a part of the princess squad” because it’s for a great cause “for the kids, and for Micah.”

Neuroblastoma is a rare cancer that occurs almost always in infants and young children.

It is the most common type of cancer among infants, yet neuroblastoma research receives only a portion of the mere three percent of funds designated for pediatric cancer research, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Micah was first diagnosed with the rare cancer at the age of one after his parents noticed strange symptoms Micah exhibited.

“Every time [Micah] would get hot he would only get red and sweaty on one side of his face,” Linda Ahern said. “The right side of his face would look normal, but the left side of his face was just pale.”

Linda Ahern said the symptom became more severe over the next six months, when it had spread down Micah’s chest.

“We knew something wasn’t right,” Maurice Ahern, Micah’s father, said. He and Linda took Micah to the hospital and within 10 minutes of Micah getting an MRI, the doctors had identified a tumor in Micah’s chest and said it was likely neuroblastoma.

Linda Ahern is a former nurse who worked in pediatric oncology, and she said she had taken care of many children with neuroblastoma who had succumbed to the disease.

“Immediately when they said it’s neuroblastoma my heart sank, simply because I’d had some patients that did not make it that had had neuroblastoma and I knew how bad it was,” Ahern said.

After three surgeries to remove the tumor in his chest in 2010, Micah was in remission.

However, in March 2013, a scan revealed Micah’s cancer had not only returned, but was present in every bone in his body. The cancer is currently Stage IV, meaning it has metastasized and has spread throughout the body.

Since the relapse, Micah has received five different chemotherapies, an unsuccessful stem cell transplant, and 17 days of radiation.

Presently, Micah is undergoing another chemotherapy treatment and has just finished his fifth round. Micah’s treatments have left him with over 50 percent hearing loss, requiring him to wear hearing aids in both ears.

Micah’s love of superheroes has given him motivation to persevere through his treatments, Linda Ahern said.

“We tell him, ‘You’re a superhero, Micah, and your superpower is you kill cancer.’ So he knows that sometimes when we go to the hospital he’s gotta take his chemo so he can use his superpower,” Ahern said.

Maurice and Linda Ahern say one of the most significant sources of support Micah receives is from the TCU baseball team.

“As a mother, just watching my son be able to make friends with these men and play baseball with them…It just warms my heart,” Linda said.

Micah celebrated his fifth birthday last Friday, and he received a very special gift from his teammates.

The team recorded themselves singing Happy Birthday to Micah from Stillwater, Okla., where they were playing against Oklahoma State.

For more information about joining Team Superhero Micah Ahern, visit:

http://nbwalk.org/events/team.aspx?teamid=138

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