Local boy fighting cancerPublished 11:05am Friday, December 4, 2009
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
The last four months have been a whirlwind of emotion for Antonio Moffitt and his parents, Heather and Tony.
In August, Antonio, 11, found a lump on his neck and didn’t think much of it. But one of his tonsils had swollen. “Badly,” his mother said. And Heather took him to the doctor.
They treated his tonsils, but Heather, going off a mother’s intuition, felt something was still wrong.
The doctor, she said “told me there was a five percent chance it was a tumor.”
That 5 percent chance turned into a malignant tumor and non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
Since then Heather and Antonio have made regularly scheduled trips to Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo for chemotherapy treatments.
Every three weeks mother and son make the trip, which lasts for five to seven days. The treatment leaves Antonio tired, reeling from stomachaches and even a bit down, sick and tired of being sick and tired.
Back home, Antonio is his father’s inspiration. Tony wears a medal around his neck on a purple ribbon. It’s a purple heart medal awarded to Antonio by his teammates on the Niles Rocket Football League, who gave it to him with a simple message: keep fighting.
Antonio played defensive and offensive end for the team for the last two years – but his illness kept him off the field for the last three games of the season.
Since Antonio’s diagnosis, Heather was forced to quit school – she and Tony were both attending classes at Southwest Michigan College. She also had to quit her job running a day care because she couldn’t run the risk of Antonio getting sick, with a weak immune system, and she needed to devote her time to the youngest of her three children, her only son.
“I have to be here,” she said. “I have to devote my time to it 100 percent.”
Donation cans have been set up in a few area businesses: at the Tank Town gas station on South 11th Street, inside Family Video and at Papa Johns, also on South 11th, to help the family with expenses that are building as they try to make it through the rest of Antonio’s treatments.
Initially, Heather said doctors expected Antonio to have to endure chemotherapy for a full year – but have since reduced his treatment to three months and though they say his lymphoma is 90 percent treatable, the malignancy means it could come back.
This year, Antonio and his family will spend Christmas inside his hospital room at Bronson.
A student at Oak Manor Sixth Grade Center, Heather said her son misses being home, being able to be with his friends and school – but the family has seen an outpouring of support from the school and Antonio’s friends.
As she sits with her son, Tony keeps an eye on things at home. Like Heather, he thought it best if he stop attending classes as well, but his son changed his mind.
“He told me not to, he said, ‘keep going.’ That really inspired me,” Tony said. “It’s kind of hard right now … I wouldn’t wish it on anybody but 11 years old … is hard.
“It really makes you think,” he added. “He’s a fighter. He won’t quit.”