Posted: April 11, 2017
When most 7-year-old boys were playing make-believe with their superhero action figures, Jordan Pickens was creating a real-life hero that other young children could look up to and identify with. Combining his passion for the military and his desire to battle cancer, Captain Cancer Fighter was born.
The origin story of Captain Cancer Fighter is one that many of us can relate to because we all want our loved ones to be happy and healthy.
Jordan’s grandmother was diagnosed with pancreatic and renal cancer when he was 5-years-old. With only 4 months to live because of her advanced stage, the doctors said that any treatment would likely not benefit her. Jordan’s mother, Ann, and the rest of her family, then decided to live with her those last few months and help Jordan’s grandfather care for her.
“Jordan saw his grandmother go from someone that read him stories, baked cookies with him, and watched his T-Ball and soccer games to someone who was confined to a hospital bed in her own home,” says Ann. “Hospice was a daily visitor to our home – some days we had three different hospice workers visit.”
On the day his grandmother passed away, Jordan told her good-bye before going to catch the school bus. By the time Ann came back in after the bus drove away, just a short while later, she was gone.
Then two years later, when Jordan was 7 years old, his mother Ann was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. The fear of losing her like he lost his grandmother quickly surfaced. Luckily, Ann went through treatment and today she is cancer-free.
Because of these two very personal brushes with cancer, Jordan wants to raise awareness about the disease. He believes that through his Captain Cancer Fighter persona he can reach children close to his age and educate them. He wants them to be aware about good nutrition, exercise, sun safety and staying away from tobacco, and he also wants them to realize that they don’t have to be afraid of someone with cancer. It’s not something they can catch, and they shouldn’t be scared about hair loss or weight loss because of chemotherapy.
Captain Cancer Fighter has joined the fight against cancer in many different ways: he spreads the word through photos, videos and interviews on his social media accounts; he’s made appearances at Minor League baseball games (throwing out the first pitch); he’s dropped the ceremonial puck at a Cure Cancer Night with the Knoxville Ice Bears Hockey team; and he’s “wrestled” cancer with KFW Wrestling.
He’s also been the featured speaker at various cancer awareness events, including a Coffee Talk with local community leaders and a CureSearch Gold BBQ and auction event that raised $18,270. A local author even incorporated Captain Cancer Fighter’s character into her chapter book – called Pinwheels and Pearls by Elise Bruce – to show the importance of searching for a cancer cure.
Other big accomplishments include getting Relay Recess back into his local school system and speaking to two state representatives and a congressman at the capital in Nashville about palliative care, keeping state funded mammograms and preventative health tests for women, and keeping smoking cessation funding.
But it’s Captain Cancer Fighter’s involvement with Relay for Life that he’s truly passionate about. As an active member, he is often found speaking at events, and last year he won the top honor for his involvement – the Heart of Relay award.
“When Jordan is not in Captain Cancer Fighter mode, he enjoys being in the Young Marines (he is a private), volunteering at the local library after school, and volunteering at the local community dinner for those in need. He helps set up, prepare and serve meals, but mostly he enjoys picking up a couple of elderly ladies and bringing them to the dinner. The gentleman that drives says that Jordan gets out of the car, goes to the door and gives them a kiss!”
He also enjoys going to events that honor veterans and helping the local Marine Corps League with the Toys for Tots campaign. He has helped sort toys and pack bags for the annual event for the last two years. In his spare time, he can be found playing video games and basketball.
Despite doing so many activities, Jordan still manages to be on the A/B Honor roll at school and is on the Student Council for third grade!
Ann says this about Jordan: “He has told me that I didn’t just have cancer – we all did.” That’s why he’s so passionate about fighting cancer. He doesn’t want to see any child go through the pain he went through during his grandmother and mother’s cancer diagnoses. He knows with only 3 cancer medications approved for children, and 1 in 8 children dying from cancer this year, he wants to push for more treatment options and medications.
Also, during Ann’s cancer treatment, she had genetic testing done that showed she had an abnormal gene that may have been passed to Jordan. Doctors believe he may be in danger of getting certain types of cancer, and they have advised his family that he needs to begin testing when he reaches the age of 12. Knowing this, Jordan truly believe he may be saving his own life by rallying for research for a cure.
During the next 10 years, Jordan hopes to continue to raise awareness through his Captain Cancer Fighter persona by building it up more and speaking publicly about cancer research and funding. He would like to attend more events that lobby for lawmakers to push through more cancer research funding and programs to help patients and their families and caregivers, who need more support. He would also like to visit young patients at local children’s hospitals and give them a reason to smile.
Captain Cancer Fighter gives us, and the entire cancer community, so many reasons to smile. We are lucky to have such an amazing, young hero fighting for more research and awareness, and we can’t wait to see what battles he takes on in the future.
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