After a valiant fight against leukemia that he ultimately won, Cameron Hardy, 22, whose plight prompted hundreds of Carson City residents to be tested as bone marrow donors, lost a four-year battle against the demons invading his body.
At 10:30 p.m. on Feb. 8, the Carson City man diagnosed at 18 with leukemia, died in his hospital bed from complications of a transplant.
Michele Lynn had spent little time away from her second-oldest child since pain in his legs in his senior year led to a diagnoses that almost took his life. But on Tuesday night, she'd left his side for 15 minutes to take her youngest sons home. Cameron was gone by the time she returned.
Despite a successful bone marrow drive in June 2008 in which 300 strangers showed up to be tested as donor for the 6-foot-4-inch tall teen, no donor was found.
The next step was a stem cell transplant. Because of Cameron's size, two cord blood donors were needed. The transplant was successful and 2 1/2 years ago, doctors declared Cameron cancer free, his mother Michele Lynn said Monday. A milestone the family had prayed for.
But complications from the transplant sprung up. The engrafted donor cells attacked Cameron's small intestine. A second transplant wasn't viable, said Michele, so doctors had to try to treat Cameron's symptoms.
The last time he was home was the morning of Jan. 19 when he entered Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center. He took his last breath there with his sister Chelsea by his side.
"He was so courageous and so strong. I don't think I could have been as strong as he was," said Chelsea, the oldest of Michele's five children. "I just know how thankful I am for what I have and I've learned to not take anything for granted. My brother taught me so much."
Michele said on Feb. 5, Cameron had decided he wanted to go into hospice care to "transition from life to death," she said.
"He suffered constantly with this with pain in his gut," said Michele. "He just couldn't eat anymore."
While the chemotherapy had bloated Cameron, the assault on his small intestines left him emaciated. He weighed just 90 pounds at the end, said Michele.
"Even though he said, 'I want this. I want you all to respect me,' we all kind of hesitated because he's so young. We didn't want to throw in the towel," she said.
But even before anything was finalized with a move to hospice or any tubes removed, Cameron's transition began Tuesday afternoon. Michele witnessed it when she arrived at the hospital.
"I couldn't believe it. It was already happening. He was already dying. I could not believe my son was entering transition," she said. "Even though Cameron said 'I want to go into hospice,' I still entertained the thought he could get better."
Tristan Lynn, 13, watched as his brother fought for his life. Even as a middle schooler, Tristan recognized his brother's strength.
"It's amazing he never gave up," Tristan said from beneath long bangs. "I always use him as inspiration."
Now the family, brought closer by a shared struggle to keep their Cameron alive, becomes even tighter in his absence. Michele looks her children, Chelsea, Tristan, Cailey, 18, and Trenton, 11, to keep her moving forward.
She planned her son's memorial Saturday with all that Cameron loved in mind, including his closest friends. And she looks forward to hearing the stories of her son from those he shared his time with.
As a final homage to Cameron, Michele hopes to recreate Cameron's appreciation for the 300 people who showed up to be tested for bone marrow.
"He met and greeted every person that arrived. I want to meet and greet every person that comes to his (memorial). I don't know if I'll be able to do that, I'll probably burst into tears, but I'll try," said Michele. "What I know is he's found his peace. That's what consoles my heart."
If You Go:
According to mother Michele Lynn, a memorial for Cameron Hardy will be Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Freedom Church on Highway 50 East. Freedom Church is located in the 50 East Business Plaza, 3579 Highway 50 E., Suite 209 in Carson City. If possible please wear a green shirt or other apparel in remembrance of Cameron's favorite color.