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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Concert will help family fight for Isaiah

Friday, August 24, 2012

Isaiah Casillas of McCook, Nebraska, pauses during treatment in a Denver hospital for a photograph with his parents, Emily -- who came into Isaiah's life and heart as step-mother, and then "Mom," when he was just a two-year-old toddler -- and Patrick. While Emily and Patrick are touched by the generosity of those wanting to sponsor fund-raisers for Isaiah, they ask that sponsors run proposed projects past them before designating Isaiah as recipient. Photo courtesy Casillas family
McCOOK, Nebraska -- Proceeds from a benefit concert Saturday, September 8, will help a McCook, Nebraska, family whose 6-year-old son is fighting a battle against brain cancer.

Isaiah Casillas, the son of Emily and Patrick Casillas, was diagnosed with "high grade undifferentiated neoplasm" in March and, although Patrick feels that Isaiah will live beyond the four to six months that his doctors and neurosurgeon have predicted, a cure for the rare, aggressive cancer is not to be found.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants wishes for children with life-threatening medical conditions, has stepped in, and its wish-granters learned that Isaiah's first wish was to meet popular teen singer Justin Bieber. Because it might be difficult to arrange a meeting with the ultra-busy pop star, Patrick said, Make-A-Wish officials encouraged him and Emily to visit with Isaiah about "possibly a second wish." Patrick said that Isaiah -- on his own, and true to his normal pattern of always putting his family first -- decided he'd rather take his whole family to Disney World.

Isaiah Casillas, the 6-year-old son of Emily and Patrick Casillas of McCook, Nebraska, poses for his kindergarten picture in the fall of 2011. Emily chuckles over the picture -- now. She said that she was initially horrified that Patrick dressed Isaiah in his monster truck shirt and hole-in-the-knee jeans for his school picture. "But, the more I looked at it, the more it's just really Isaiah," she said, with a smile. Isaiah is battling terminal brain cancer. Cards of encouragement -- Isaiah's favorite characters are Spongebob Squarepants and Dora the Explorer -- will reach Isaiah at 903 East D, McCook, NE 69001. Photo courtesy Casillas family
Patrick and Emily have always been touched by Isaiah's dedication and loyalty to his family. "He has a heart of gold for his family," Patrick said.

Still, part of Isaiah's first wish may come true, as one of the performers at the benefit concert, Jason Dill of Denver, Colorado, does a "Justin Bieber-type performance," according to concert coordinator Katie Graham of McCook.

The concert is Saturday, Sept 8, from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m., in the auditorium at McCook Senior High. Tickets are $10 each, available at McCook National Bank and McCook Lettering.

The doors will open at 6 p.m.

"We hope to fill every one of the 600 seats in the auditorium," Katie said. "God willing, we will sell all 600 seats and then some ... please pass the word."

The concert for Isaiah precedes McCook Senior High's 2012 homecoming dance. "This is a great date night for the young couples," Katie said. "Who wouldn't love to go to a concert then a dance?!"

Katie is hoping too, that, at the concert, everyone will wear a t-shirt custom-designed to support Isaiah and his brave fight. The t-shirts say "Prayers for Isaiah" and "Team Isaiah," and they're available for purchase at McCook Lettering.

Performing on stage will be Jon and Angie Reiners, and Oscar and Stephanie Montez, of McCook; Halle Stephens of Arapahoe; Bob Cummings of Grant; and Jason Dill. The emcee will be Rich Barnett of KICX Radio, McCook.

Katie said, "Thank you for supporting this amazing little boy and his family."

Patrick's heart swells with emotion when he talks about how people in McCook and the surrounding area have reached out to help his family with fund-raisers like Katie's concert, collection jars distributed and a bank account started by Patrick's daughter Mia's friends Miranda and Moriah Payton and cookies baked and sold by Willow Ridge Senior Living Community of McCook. "We haven't sought this help, or asked for fund-raisers -- they've done all this from their hearts," Patrick said, fighting tears.

Isaiah's troubles started in March, on a morning when Patrick couldn't wake him up before school and when he started experiencing seizures.

Doctors in Denver made the initial diagnosis of brain cancer, and after treatment with radiation and chemotherapy, Isaiah came home to McCook, and the family settled into new routines centered around Isaiah's needs.

As Isaiah's condition worsened, Patrick and Emily decided to seek a second opinion, this one with the Omaha doctor who treated a then-five-year-old Dustin Payton, the son of Brian and Mary Payton of McCook, when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor in early 2003.

The Omaha surgeon came in on his day off, Patrick said, to install a shunt on Isaiah's brain to draw off the fluid that was building up and creating pressure on his brain.

Isaiah is doing much better. "We are so grateful that Brian gave us that direction," Patrick said.

Patrick and Emily had originally planned to move to North Platte after Isaiah's hospitalization in Denver, to be closer to family. They didn't know how they would make it day-to-day, as both had given up their jobs so they could spend every moment of Isaiah's life with him.

But they're glad they ultimately decided to stay in their home in McCook. "We didn't know that the community of McCook would reach out to us as it's done," Patrick said. Emily, wiping away tears, sometimes struggles to describe their gratitude for the community's generosity and support.

Patrick and Emily said they, Isaiah and his sisters, almost-14-year-old Mia (pronounced My-ah) and 3-year-old Mercia (pronounced Mer-see-ah) have also been made to feel welcome by the pastor and congregation at the Norris Avenue Chapel.

Patrick said, "We're so blessed by so many people who care about Isaiah, and love him. He's brought so much joy to people's lives and hearts."

Emily is so glad that Isaiah has been able to return to McCook Elementary, where he's a first grader in Steph Sydow's class. His first day back in class was Tuesday, Aug. 21, "and he didn't want to leave," Emily said, smiling. "It's great that we have the support of the principal, Tim Garcia, and the staff."

Patrick and Emily are optimistic about the disheartening timeline that Isaiah's Denver doctors gave him. At four months past his diagnosis, Isaiah's not displaying the symptoms (tiredness, nausea, not wanting to eat, inability to swallow) or quite the severity of symptoms that doctors told them will indicate that the end is near. "It's everybody's prayers, and faith," Patrick said, that are responsible for Isaiah's stable health right now and his attitude. "He's a little weaker, but he still plays, and rides his (battery-operated) motorcycle. It's absolutely amazing," Patrick said.

Isaiah understands his illness, and tells people that he's going to live in heaven.

Coming out of a seizure in the Denver hospital, Isaiah told his parents, "I'm going to see my Grandpa, and Vanessa, and my baby boy." "Grandpa" is Patrick's dad, now deceased; Vanessa is Patrick's 13-year-old daughter who died in a grain bin accident in 2003; and "my baby boy" is Patrick and Emily's baby boy, Patrick King Casillas, who died at two weeks of age of the complications of the heart defect he was born with.

"People who have passed are in his heart, and he knows that he's going to see them," Patrick said. "

After the same seizure, Isaiah asked Emily to put stickers on items that he wants her to give to family and friends after he dies -- a Bible from his kindergarten teacher Mrs. (Bev) Klein, a fish aquarian lamp, his Teddy bear.

"He was speaking so softly, as if he was trying to hold back tears," Emily said, struggling with her own tears. " ... he touched his cheek and the corner of his eye, so gently, to wipe at a tear ... he didn't look or act like a six-year-old ... "

Patrick continued for Emily, "The pastor says that Isaiah is preparing us to let him go ... Isaiah knows ... he's strong. He tells us not to cry."

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