Brooke Tibbits | 05.01.23
Memorial Day Weekend in 2011 started off like any other holiday for the Burklow family. Nancy, her husband, and their four children were enjoying a relaxing family weekend. Aric, their youngest son and a freshman in high school, had gone inside to watch a game on TV, when he called for his mom to look at his neck. On the right side was a tennis ball-sized lump.
“It hadn’t been there before,” said Nancy. “Being Memorial Day weekend, our family doctor’s office wouldn’t be open until Tuesday. Ignorantly, my husband and I decided to wait to have it checked out.”
They kept a close eye on things and they were at the doctor’s office first thing Tuesday morning. “Another young lady from our community had passed away from cancer in May, so Aric’s first question to the doctor was, ‘is it cancer?’ Our doctor assured us that no, cancer doesn’t grow that fast. It put our minds at ease.” Still, Aric’s doctor scheduled him for a biopsy to be safe.
The Burklow’s worst fears were realized several weeks later when the results came back. Aric was diagnosed with Stage III Non-Hodgkins Large Cell Lymphoma. It was cancer and it was serious.
“No parent ever wants to hear that their child has cancer,” Nancy said. “We were all absolutely devastated, and Aric was terrified. He’s higher functioning on the autistic spectrum, so he needs to know what is going on, why it’s going on, how it’s going to get better—but mostly why this is happening to him. How do you even explain it?”
Trying to keep loved ones updated on the latest information in the early days was challenging. There were lots of phone calls and Facebook posts. Nancy was introduced to CaringBridge at the hospital, and she decided it was the best way to share information. And so it began. Information got out and people started connecting.
Aric went through six rounds of chemotherapy, each lasting five days. It was a rollercoaster of good blood counts, bad blood counts, nausea, headaches, and hair loss. Nancy remembered how important Aric’s CaringBridge site was to all of them during that time. “It was an incredible tool to keep communication open between loved ones. It helped keep all of us ‘up’ when times were bad. I’m not sure how we would have gotten through it without CaringBridge.”
But they did get through it. Aric’s final chemotherapy treatment was in November 2011, and he’s been cancer-free ever since. In 2014, he graduated high school, and in 2015, Aric and his mom decided to take on a new challenge, with a big purpose.
“We embarked on a mission to complete a half marathon in all 50 states, raising funds for the Joe Andruzzi Foundation, which benefits people in the New England States who have cancer.” A huge New England Patriots fan, this challenge was perfectly matched for Aric.
Nancy and Aric completed their first half marathon in 2015 in Little Rock, Arkansas. From 2015 to 2022, they ran a total of 22 half marathons in 22 different states.
Though they had plans to run five more half marathons and one full marathon in 2023, the Burklow family faced another tragedy. Sadly, Nancy passed away suddenly in January.
Nancy was instrumental in ensuring Aric lived a full and happy life. Through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, she made Aric’s dream of attending a Patriots game come true, watching quarterback Tom Brady throw a game-winning touchdown right in front of them in 2011. Before her passing, Nancy was working on a six-month stay in 2024 for her and Aric in New England, living and breathing his beloved Patriots. While there, they’d also planned to complete half marathons in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.
Even in the most difficult circumstances, Nancy was able to find the silver lining in it all. She talked about how blessed her family was to have such a supportive group of people through Aric’s CaringBridge site, praying for them and lifting them up. She made sure Aric not only felt supported and loved, but also lived a full life despite his diagnosis.
The legacy she leaves behind—one of a mother advocating for her son, offering constant reassurance, love, and support, and running the most challenging races right alongside him—will never be forgotten by Aric, their family, and the CaringBridge community.