Joshua McGrath, aka JJ Strong, was born in 2011 to the loving parents of Josh and Kristen. Their baby boy was perfect, life was perfect, and things were going great. JJ was a sweet and lovable child, always on the go, but had the tendency to be a little shy. It was at 21 months the McGrath’s got thrown a curveball.
That curveball was no ordinary curveball; it was that nasty cheese that the good pitchers have. October 2013 the day that curveball hit the family in the form of: “your son has cancer”. The four worst words, I would imagine that the McGrath’s have ever heard. That day the families life changed.
JJ diagnosis was stage IV high-risk neuroblastoma He had six rounds chemo, surgery to resect all three tumors in his abdomen. On 10APR14, JJ had a stem cell transplant. The procedure took only 15 minutes, and he breezed right through it. All except for the stinky breath,. However they preserve the stem cells really causes them to stink up the place so the McGrath’s used orange peels and peppermint oil to make the place smell more attractive. However, the McGrath’s could handle some stinky breath from their superhero. Then, JJ had two-and-a-half straight weeks of outpatient radiation, and six months antibody therapy.
The community came together to help the family. There were raffles, a dance, a bike/run benefit. Even the local police station, Kingston Police Department helped out. Their annual hockey tournament was dedicated to JJ, and all the proceeds went to JJ and his family. The family is finally able to pay it forward with their upcoming benefit, Child life program at the floating hospital for children at Tuft’s Medical Center.
After it was all said and done, JJ came out a survivor. A childhood cancer butt-kicker. Why, because he is JJ Strong. His parents always knew that he would beat that stupid cancer. They know that their son has the fight of a warrior. It was December 2014 that JJ was showing no evidence of cancer. Then the call came from Dr. Kelly on 16MAR15; the MIBG was negative, and Mr. JJ McGrath is free of cancer today. But JJ has to do scans every three months and we pray that the scans always come back clean.
So today, 25MAY15, this memorial day, as we remember all those that have served, are serving, and those that will, I honor another hero, Mr. Joshua McGrath. We celebrate this holiday to honor the finest men and women who have sacrificed their lives to protect our country. However, this holiday is just a little more special because I get to honor a real childhood hero and a survivor. You persevered and fought the good fight. You made it out the other side. Maybe a little bloodied and bruised, but that is the sign of a true warrior. May your day be blessed Joshua, as I know mine will. Thoughts of you will carry me to my boyhood home, Pawtucket, RI. So for that I am grateful, godspeed Ken.
To see more about JJ’s battle see his page at:
If you or somebody you know would like to have their child honored on one of my daily rides, please leave a message for us so that we can get the details about your hero or angel. Alternatively, you can join our group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/Kens10000milesHerosandAngels/ and submit your hero or angel there.