Cristian Rivera Foundation

Andrew Smith was a very sociable child who loved seeing the people around him happy. He grew up with one older brother and sister, in which he acted as the balance between the two of his siblings. He was constantly funny, even when he didn’t want to be. Andrew was gifted with the ability to make people happier, just by his presence and personality alone. One day, the entire Smith family had an intense argument which made the car ride home a hostile environment. While everyone was uneasy, Andrew decided to break the tense moment and started to “moo” like a cow. That simple “moo” made everyone break out into laughter and forget all about the argument. From that day on, whenever there was an extreme argument, someone in their family would “moo” to break up the intensity. Andrew always wanted his family to be happy because they meant everything to him.

Andrew was tall and very good looking. He loved playing the violin and piano and most of all he enjoyed singing. He had a true passion for music and would try to spread God’s word with everyone. His favorite songs were “He is Able”, “Amazing Grace”, and “Blessed Be Thy Name”. He constantly sang these songs every opportunity he could – whether it was by himself or in front of his family.

On Monday, October 23,  2007, Andrew’s mother, Sandy, was diagnosed with breast cancer. That same Thursday, Andrew began to show symptoms of cancer. On October 26, 2007, Andrew was officially diagnosed with DIPG. The first thing he said when the doctor told him and his family that he had a mass in his brainstem was, “My mom has a mass too!”. At just 6 years old he tried to lighten the situation and ensure his family that everything will be okay. At this point, Andrew and his mother were both diagnosed with different forms of cancer and had to endure the difficult journey of recovery together.

A few days after Andrew was diagnosed, Halloween came around and he decided to wear Superman pajamas. From that moment on, everyone began to call him Superman or Super Andrew. He was a boy that was going to fight and battle DIPG just like the superhero he loved. He loved being known as Superman so other DIPG fathers and children kept calling him Superman whenever they saw him. There was a point where he had to go over to one father and whisper in his ear, “I am not really Superman”. His humor and passion for the things he loved are what gravitated people towards him.

Both Andrew and Sandy went to countless treatments and doctor appointments together. They were not fighting their battles alone, they had each other and that’s all they needed. A short while after, they both underwent chemotherapy treatment. Eventually, Andrew’s parents decided to stop his chemo treatment because they felt it had awful side effects and was making no impact on the tumor. After the chemo failed to work, Andrew tried an alternative treatment in Houston, Texas.

Unfortunately, this alternative form of treatment didn’t work so the next best option was to continue with radiation. Andrew underwent radiation treatment for months and one day he met a little boy named Harper. Harper was only 4 years old and was also diagnosed with cancer. Throughout Andrew’s DIPG treatment he tried to help Harper understand what was going on and acted as a role model for this child. At just 6 years old, Andrew took on the responsibility of helping a child slightly younger than him because that was just the type of person that he was. Andrew was always caring and wanted to support and help everyone around him despite his condition.

Among other things, Andrew also loved the Michigan State Spartans and spent a lot of time with their athletic program while he was fighting DIPG. He went to many basketball and football games, however, he felt most connected to the hockey team. He would go to hockey games and sit right next to the glass, cheer on his favorite team, and then go into their locker room afterward to speak to all of the players. He was such a crucial part of the team that he also gave awards out to the 2008 Michigan State Hockey team players at the end of the season.

As Andrew’s condition worsened his parents’ concern grew. When they were speaking about his condition he would tell them, “It’s okay, if I don’t get better I will just go to heaven. When I get there I will have lots of friends waiting.” He knew many kids who have passed from DIPG or other types of cancer, so he felt if he did not recover, he would simply reunite with them. Shortly after, Andrew lost his speech. He was trying to sing “Happy Birthday” for his father and realized he couldn’t. At that moment, he was unable to speak any words at all and fell to the floor in tears. Andrew loved music and singing and DIPG was trying to prevent him from doing what he loved. But he didn’t let it.

After his father’s birthday, Andrew kept trying to sing despite his voice being distorted. He had such a passion for singing that even when DIPG tried holding him back, he kept pushing and was able to sing as best he could.

During Andrew’s time in the hospital, he began to develop a crush for one of the nurses. Her name was Kelly. Constantly, Andrew would tell his family and everyone around him that he wanted to kiss Kelly. He wanted to make sure his dream came true. After his voice was nearly entirely gone and he could hardly move, he was laying in the hospital bed with nurse Kelly and his family by his side. She leaned in to kiss him and he stopped her. He held out his hand and handed her a Hershey Kiss. The room burst into laughter and Andrew just smiled. Not long after that moment, Andrew decided to stop his treatment.

Two weeks later and almost 25 months after he was diagnosed, Andrew reached Heaven. He was at peace with his decision to stop his treatment because he was not afraid anymore. He was ready to be with his friends. Before Andrew passed his father told him, “Heaven is a wonderful place, Jesus is up there waiting for you”. Andrew knew he had a lot of friends and family who loved him on Earth, for he was always so kind and caring to those around him. He was a truly wonderful person. Andrew’s journey showed us that no matter how difficult life may get, keep fighting, and do the things you love to do.

by Austen Conrado

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