03/11/13 — Former Relay co-chair loses his battle with cancer

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Former Relay co-chair loses his battle with cancer

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 11, 2013 1:46 PM

Isaiah Henderson

From the time he was diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening cancer two years ago, Isaiah Henderson valiantly believed he would defeat it.

His family joined him in the fight and would not entertain any hints that a cure would not be found.

Even as the 14-year-old drew his last breath around 9:45 Saturday night at his home, Shenitha Peacock said her firstborn embodied his favorite Bible verse, Isaiah 53:5 -- "But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds are we healed."

"Just remember him (Isaiah) for the hero that he was, just his spirit, the spirit that he possessed," Ms. Peacock said. "And just say he's now healed, cancer-free, with Jesus."

The eighth-grader at Brogden Middle School's battle started at age 12, when he began having pain in his lower back that turned into shooting pains down his legs. He later lost feeling in his legs and for about a month, was unable to walk.

Then an MRI turned up the diagnosis -- anaplastic glioma, a form of cancer.

He had surgery at Duke to remove the spinal cord tumor. After six weeks of chemo and radiation, he returned to school. In 2012, he served as youth co-honorary chair for Relay for Life.

Frequent doctor visits, hospitalizations and treatments followed. A form of paralysis required him to use a wheelchair to get around, and he experienced side effects from the medication.

He stopped going to classes in October.

No matter how challenging things got, though, his spirits stayed positive and he drew upon support from many directions.

Jane Sasser, media coordinator at Brogden Middle and a member of the school's Relay for Life team, was close to Isaiah and his family, spearheading efforts throughout their journey -- from coordinating fundraisers to offset the ongoing medical expenses to eliciting donations that included gas cards, movie passes and organic fruit to bolster the student's diet.

Knowing what an avid Carolina basketball fan Isaiah was, Mrs. Sasser arranged for him and his friends to attend a game, meet Coach Roy Williams and sit on the bench with the team. That took place the day before Isaiah's 14th birthday, Nov. 12. This past summer, Make-A-Wish arranged a trip to Disney World for the entire family.

Throughout it all, the community also turned out in full force for the family. Churches held fundraisers and healing services, the men from First Baptist Church in Goldsboro built a ramp at the family's home. And schools in the southern end of the county, Brogden Primary, Mount Olive Middle and Southern Wayne High also collected donations and participated in fundraisers.

The family -- which also includes Isaiah's three younger siblings -- all closed ranks around one of their own, prompting a change in living arrangements to accommodate his health needs.

Len Henderson, a former school board member and Isaiah's grandfather, took over caregiving responsibilities with his wife, Renee, moving Ms. Peacock and all four children into their Dudley home.

On some level, they were aware of the possibility that each setback could be the last, like when he was taken to Kitty Askins Hospice in December.

But like all the times before, they experienced a reprieve, this time with Isaiah being released to go home on Christmas Eve.

Funeral arrangements are incomplete, Ms. Peacock said Sunday night, before taking the opportunity to express appreciation for all the outpouring of love for her eldest child.

"We just want to thank everyone for all their support, all their prayers," she said. "He fought a good fight and he kept the faith. It was just a lesson learned for us all, just the strength that he had and the courage.

"We'll remember him for those things."