BJ accomplished a lot in his short 15 years – more than most people will in decades. He fought bravely, he loved hard, and he lived life to the fullest.
The night BJ was diagnosed with pre-B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, his mom, Michelle, sat with him as he received his first blood transfusion.
“He went from being so pale to having rosy cheeks,” Michelle said. “He finally fell asleep as I sat beside him and watched the color come back into his face.”
In between lengthy hospital stays, BJ and his family tried to live their lives. BJ took every opportunity to spend time outside, often going fishing or hanging out with his friends. He loved sports, and played on the basketball and football teams at school. He also got to spend some time at the Carolina Panthers stadium and meet some players.
“He was diagnosed with his relapse about two weeks before eighth grade ended, and that was a shock,” Michelle said. “We actually ran the Keep Pounding 5K two weeks before we found out he had relapsed.”
Despite relapsing, BJ maintained his positive attitude. The Facebook page dedicated to his fight, formerly called Cure For BJ Round 2, gained him followers and friends from all across the globe. His story even made it to the U.S. military.
People like to give, and a lot of times, in a situation like ours, they didn’t know what they could do. I would tell people, ‘You can go give blood, because it not only helps BJ, but it also helps other kids, other people in our community.’"
In December 2015, a member of SEAL Team 8 visited BJ in his room at Atrium Health's Levine Children’s to name the North Lincoln High freshman an honorary Navy SEAL because of his exemplary character and spirit.
“He was a true warrior in his fight against cancer,” Michelle said. “He fought to shine the light of his faith throughout his battle.”
Numerous blood and platelet transfusions helped sustain BJ as he fought ALL for 3 ½ years, but doctors exhausted all standard treatment options. Ultimately, after 90 consecutive days in the hospital, he was discharged home with a transfer to Kid’s Path hospice care. BJ passed away March 5, 2016, two days after his 15th birthday.
Six months after he passed, BJ’s mother and sister, Carly, founded The Stand Firm Warrior Foundation in his honor. The memories of BJ’s full life continue to push his family in their mission to support pediatric cancer research and provide assistance to families of children diagnosed with cancer. Michelle and Carly have also become advocates for blood and platelet donation, hosting drives with CBCC to help give others more time with their loved ones.
“I witnessed many transfusions. I think it was close to 100 platelet units alone,” Michelle said. “People like to give, and a lot of times, in a situation like ours, they didn’t know what they could do. I would tell people, ‘You can go give blood, because it not only helps BJ, but it also helps other kids, other people in our community.’ I’m thankful those donors gave me more time with my son, and gave Carly more time with her brother.”
“Giving others hope...
Thanks to local blood donors.”
“Her life was saved ...
And now she's saving others”
“Jamal says his life is nothing short of a miracle...
Thanks to local blood donors.”