Lucas Antonio was born January 9, 1997. I can still remember the first time I saw him. The little bit of hair he had looked red, I was so scared but so happy. This was the best day of my life…becoming a father. My mom always said I would be a good father one day and the day had come – I didn’t want to disappoint her.
As Lucas grew, his uncle noticed his left leg was bowed. I didn’t think much about it at first, but his mother and I noticed it affected his running and balance so we went to the doctor. They took xrays and the doctor said he had a rare bone disease called Focal Fibrocartilaginous Dysplasia. They explained that a place below his knee was cartilage when it should be bone. We weren’t sure who to go to but a friend of the family suggested the Shriners Hospital for Children in Greenville, SC. We lived in a small town and they knew someone who would sponsor us, so we made the trip.
There the doctors explained they had to break his leg and their hope was that the bone would grow back like it should be. Lucas had to wear a double cast on his legs. At three and four years old, he handled it better than I could have. We went back weeks later and the doctors saw no change. We were so disappointed, but after several visits we finally got great news – the surgery was a success and my son was healed.
We went back home and life was great. He could run, jump and skip. God blessed our son as the years went by. He played soccer, T-ball and baseball. We also spent a lot of time fishing (I’m still not sure which was his favorite thing to do). I remember trying to talk him into playing my favorite sport of all…FOOTBALL.
He had no interest at first, but finally, one day I asked saying, “You sure you don’t want to play? You get to hit people.” He smiled and said, “Yea.” I replied, “They get to hit you too.” He looked confused but decided to play and he found his love of football. I loved watching him. He gave 120% the whole game. I was so proud. His first year he wore #52 and they called him little Ray Lewis. And although he didn’t know who Ray was, he sure played like Ray. He played four years of football and absolutely looked forward to football season every year. His last season he went to a new school; they only had nine kids on the team. While you would think they would be whipped by every team they faced, Lucas fought hard.
After that season was over he complained of headaches. They were so severe they made him puke. We took him to the doctor where they said it was his sinuses and they sent us home with a prescription, explaining we’d have to go to the hospital for tests if it didn’t get better.
His mother and sister had gone away for the weekend but they came back early so we went and took X-rays, but didn’t find anything; they also did blood work CT scans and still nothing. We went home the next day.
He was admitted to the hospital the day his right eye was dropping. They called an eye doctor who ordered an MRI. That evening we got the news – he had a tumor on his brain stem. I was confused and just thought everything was going to be fine. They referred us to the Children’s Hospital in Birmingham, AL where the doctors were blunt. They told us to give Lucas the best Christmas ever, that he had no chance of making it; we would only be prolonging his passing.
I was nervous but still thought, “We’ll get through this. They are wrong.” We met all kinds of doctors and did the paperwork. They scheduled the surgery and we returned home. His mother kept hearing announcements for St Jude on the radio and felt it was a sign telling her we needed to go there. She called, got the information and a day later we were on our way to Memphis.
We also got the same horrible news we did in Birmingham. I started worrying but still thought, “We’ll be fine.” We spent nearly two months going through radiation and chemo. Lucas held his nose and chased the chemo with chocolate milk. It was hard watching, but my little man was so brave.
People’s hearts poured out with love, care packages and gifts. It was always nice to see him smile. We went out to eat wherever he wanted and did what he wanted on Christmas Eve and that was great. We watched him play video games, he was so happy with his gifts.
Christmas morning he was hurting. We went back to the hospital and were there all day. After the weeks of treatment, we made it back home.
Lucas would get tired easily, but still I had hope. He had to decide what to do and/or where to go on his Make-A-Wish trip. He decided on going to Puerto Rico. We had a lot planned, the resort was beautiful with its built-in water park. Unfortunately, he had trouble standing for long periods of time, and was only able to go fishing and he out-fished me!
When we got home I remember cooking him breakfast and he had trouble holding the fork. I asked if he wanted help and he said, “You’re not going to feed me.” He fought ‘til we had do everything for him. He never complained. I know he had to be scared, but he wouldn’t show us his fear. His Pastor visited one day and they talked about heaven. He said he wanted to go…but not alone. My boy was transformed from a child to an elder.
One of the last things I remember him saying was, “I guess you only get one miracle in life.” He was so wise and so unselfish. On June 9, 2008 My Little Angel went home. I think of him often and smile. I thank the LORD for the time he gave us together. I love you Lucas.