Heroes are made by the path they choose

Many of you reading this will have been led here by a post I created on LinkedIn and Twitter recently about some devastating news our charity received about a young man we’ve been supporting for many years. Luke, now aged 23, has battled on with the rare and aggressive cancer, neuroblastoma – a cruel and devastating type of cancer – since he was 14 years old. Paediatric cancer is considered rare as compared to adult cancers, but the high-risk type of paediatric cancers are devastating to families because of the toxicity of treatment and the premature loss of young life – this shouldn’t be happening to children. Over the last 20 years, there have been only 6 paediatric cancer drugs developed – that’s compared to 126 that have been developed for adults in the same period. This is an absolute tragedy of our time.

The young man who is subject of this post is one of those young people who has been so significantly impacted by the insufficient progress made in the fight against paediatric cancer. Despite the extensive suffering and loss of his late childhood and young adulthood, Luke has persevered and has been a source of strength to his family. It has been utterly devastating to learn that he now requires end-of-life care as there are no curative options available to him.

Through the years of treatment and immobility, Luke became a huge fan of gaming and of Marvel as this became a world that he could retreat into and live the type of life through this virtual world that he could not otherwise live in the real one. He relayed some wishes to his family, two of which our charity were able to fulfil but one – and perhaps the most important one to him – was beyond our gift.

This was to the play the game Marvel’s Midnight Suns, a new in-development video game from Firaxis Games and 2K, not due for release until next year. Not being familiar with the world of video games, we weren’t even sure where to begin. But Luke is the kind of person who inspires us all to go further, which led to the post that most likely led you here to this Blog. The cancer community, individuals and companies we didn’t even know shared these posts widely as people searched their own networks to see what they could do.

We were absolutely humbled by this support and grateful to everyone who liked, shared and spread the word to ensure our call was heard. This groundswell of support helped us reach 2K – the publisher of the game. What transpired over the next 72 hours after that initial reach-out was nothing short of a miracle.

The team involved, from 2KFiraxis and Marvel, came together and worked as a single unit with a singular focus which was to fulfil this young man’s wish against all odds. They not only made it possible for Luke to play the game, they actually physically brought the game to his bedside. Asim Tanvir, Social Media Manager at 2K’s London office, arrived at Luke’s family home on a Saturday morning with an in-development build of the game – and a few additional surprises.

The team at 2K, Firaxis and Marvel had all been working day and night to make the game ready for Luke – many of whom actually joined Asim, Luke and his family via video for his play session. Luke was able to meet the team who had designed the game itself despite the fact that it was 3 in the morning for them all. They talked Luke through all the intricacies of the game and gave him several unique and one-of-a-kind gifts throughout the morning. This included putting Luke himself into the credits of the game, as well as one more big surprise...

Perhaps most special and surprising of all to Luke, and to all of us, was that they have engraved a tree with Luke’s name within the game itself on the grounds of the Abbey – the home and sanctuary of the Midnight Suns. Luke’s wish was more than fulfilled, and in Luke’s own words, he has been forever immortalised in Marvel. I’m sure those amongst you who are in the world of gaming will most especially understand the precious meaning of this to Luke.  

2K, Firaxis and Marvel did all of this not for publicity, nor for any credit, or any personal gain. Their focus was about Luke, and him only. They did this purely from the purity of heart that drives the very best of humanity. They put all workloads and personal plans aside and worked solidly over that period to achieve what should have been unachievable, on behalf of a complete stranger.

It is not an overstatement to say that having been part of this experience has truly changed me. Being witness to the very best kind of people, bringing absolute joy, recognition, and validation to someone who has felt so invisible for most of his life has been truly awe inspiring. These acts of kindness have filled up my heart, and the hearts of everyone in this charity – and most importantly brought everlasting fulfilment to a young man who deserves so much more from this life. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Heroes come in many forms, and in this most important hour, they came in the form of the wonderful people at Firaxis, Marvel and 2K.

My call to action is this - if anyone reading this is moved and, in any way, shocked at how this could be happening to children and young people, please come and join us as we continue to fight for a world without neuroblastoma, on behalf of children and young people like Luke. Solving Kids’ Cancer supports the children and families of today whilst fighting for the children and families of tomorrow – for a future without neuroblastoma - by investing in the most promising clinical trials that bring more effective, less toxic treatments to the frontline. Join us today by becoming a supporter and together we can defeat this disease.

“But in times of crisis, the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another, as if we were one single tribe.”

T'Challa, Black Panther