Archived Story

Strength is in numbers

Published 8:28am Thursday, August 14, 2014

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about strength.

If you think about the strongest people you know, you’ll more than likely think of those who have found the will to move forward despite unimaginable experiences.

On Tuesday, one of the people I rate among the strongest of my acquaintances succumbed to a form of liver cancer. A few years my senior, Aaron Edquist was the older brother of one of my classmates, Zach. His family was always very involved in the community, volunteering at sporting events and fundraisers for the school district. Aaron was a 2006 Brandywine graduate and dedicated three-sport athlete known for his sense of humor and positive attitude.

For six years, Aaron fought with a fortitude I’ve rarely seen matched, adamant to defeat the illness plaguing him.

One of the most admirable qualities Aaron was known for was his determination to live life like a normal human being, one who was not fighting cancer.

What Aaron may not have known is that with or without cancer, he would never be considered “normal.” Aaron’s fervor and optimism was so powerful that it was hard to even recognize that he was sick. So no, Aaron was not normal or ordinary. With or without cancer, he was a warrior.

Despite ongoing treatments, a failing organ and the constant roller coaster of relapse and remission, Aaron worked hard, went to school and spent time with his friends and family, and he did it with a smile.

To me, that is strength.

Some time ago, Aaron was hospitalized in New York where doctors were attempting a new treatment. Once the doctors determined there was nothing else they could do for him, Aaron’s father began posting messages through social media to inform people about his condition.

Knowing the depth of Aaron’s support group back home in Niles, Terry and his family felt it was important to keep everyone in the loop. Despite their own suffering through an inconceivably difficult time, this family was taking time to offer their condolences to others and thank them for their prayers.

To me, that is strength.

During the days following Terry’s announcement that doctors had done all they could do, I watched as more people than I can count purchased airplane tickets and coordinated carpools to get to New York as fast as possible to see their friend. Fundraising campaigns, prayer sessions and organized events dedicated to Aaron were planned in a matter of hours. I saw friends I hadn’t seen in years reconnecting through this common pain we all shared, putting aside other burdens to lend support in this time of sadness.

To me, that is strength — strength in numbers.

Oftentimes you hear phrases like “defeated by cancer” or “lost a battle with cancer.” I think in this situation, there was no battle lost. Aaron fought his fight with all of the strength he had, and when he ran out, others fought for him.

The support and bravery of our little community during this tragedy has been a direct reflection of Aaron’s unceasing determination and willpower. Even in his weakest moments as his body gave in to its disease, Aaron was still inspiring the people who loved him, giving them the courage to move forward, to band together to defeat their pain.

If that’s not strength, I don’t know what is.


Ambrosia Neldon is the managing editor at Leader Publications. She can be reached by email at, or by phone at (269) 687-7713.


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