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Bluffdale Boy Fighting Cancer Enjoys Trip Of Lifetime With Haloti Ngata
BLUFFDALE, Utah – A Bluffdale family whose son has been fighting cancer was given an all-expense trip to the City of Brotherly Love to meet Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman Haloti Ngata. The former Highland High star took the family to dinner and gave them a VIP experience at an NFL game.
Sports are a way of life for the Whatcott family. Rarely does a Saturday go by when one of Nick and Janessa’s four boys don’t have a game. The list includes baseball, football, basketball and even wrestling. Bumps and bruises were common.
There was no reason for concern when their 6-year old son Nixon began complaining about leg pain. They assumed it was just growing pains.
The problem was the pain wasn’t going away.
Three weeks went by and the pain persisted. So, Janessa finally decided to take Nixon to the doctor. Nothing could have prepared them for the news they were about to receive.
“We figured out it was cancer,” Nixon said when asked to share his story.
It’s the word no parent ever wants to hear about one of their children. Suddenly the Whatcott’s were living a nightmare. Their life was changed forever.
An X-ray showed a large tumor in Nixon’s femur. They were sent to the oncology unit at Primary Children’s Hospital where further testing was done. Doctors discovered there were multiple tumors, the cancer was malignant and it had spread to Nixon’s lungs. He was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma.
“Our whole world changed,” Nick said. “This was more than his leg. We are fighting for Nixon’s life at this point.”
Nixon soon began the long and painful process of chemotherapy. He also needed to have the tumor removed which meant doctors needed to remove his femur. Instead of amputating his entire leg they performed a procedure called a “rotationplasty.”
Rotationplasty is a surgical procedure used to treat bone cancers near the knee. A surgeon removes the bottom of the femur, the knee and the upper tibia. Then the lower leg is rotated 180 degrees and then attached to the femur. The foot can then function like a knee and fits into a prosthesis providing the child more mobility than they would have with a full amputation.
“He’s literally had to learn to walk all over again and his brain has had to rewire his neurons in his body in order to make that work properly,” Nick said.
Nixon faced all this adversity with a courage and strength that left his parents in awe.
“It amazes me how positive he was through all this,” his mother Janessa said. “He never once asked why I have to do this. He’s never complained about anything. He’s just been like ‘okay this is what I have to do to get better and he just goes.’”
Nixon always exhibited a toughness from a very young age. His goals were to become a college football player and a navy seal.
“He just goes,” Nick says. “He’s playing basketball right now. He wants to play baseball. He loves the Navy Seals and so we always tell him to keep having a Navy Seals mentality and he does and he just keeps going.”
Nixon was going through treatment at Primary Children’s hospital when he received a special visit. Former Highland High School star Haloti Ngata of the Philadelphia Eagles stopped by his room and delivered a signed jersey. Little did Nixon and his family know but this would not be the last time they would spend time with the five time NFL pro bowler and Super Bowl Champion.
Each year the Ngata Family Foundation selects someone for an all-expenses paid trip to an NFL game and weekend experience with Haloti and his family. They get tickets to a game and go to dinner with Haloti.
For a “sports family” like the Whatcott’s it was a dream vacation.
“They were so warm and so welcoming they were just like family,” Janessa said. “We love them. The kids had fun playing together. It was incredible.”
They took all the stuff you had been dealing with and allowed you to forget about that.
One of Nixon’s favorite moments of the trip to Philadelphia was getting to see the Rocky statue and running up the “Rocky Steps” on his blade. He also enjoyed getting to share the experience with his brothers.
“They took all the stuff you had been dealing with and allowed you to forget about that,” Nick added.
While there have been many dark days the family has been overwhelmed by the amount of support they have received from the community. It has given them the strength they need to continue the fight.
“Sometimes when you just think we can’t do this again or this is getting so hard you’ll remember something that someone sent you or something that someone has done for you,” Janessa said. “You just think of Nixon and keep going.”