To all those who knew him, Joshua Stanton Cramer was an old soul. He was in-tune with people and happy-go-lucky by nature. Like many boys his age, he loved baseball, football, and food, particularly a Five Guys cheeseburger and fries. He had an older brother whom he idolized and some of his favorite times were going to his baseball games. His brother’s teammates were like his extended family, nicknaming him “little Cramer” and loving him like their own. But unfortunately, Joshua wasn’t like all his friends and family around him. Josh had DIPG.
At age 13, a little past his birthday, Joshua was diagnosed with DIPG, a rare form of pediatric brain cancer where the tumor is located on the brain stem, making it inoperable. For Mrs. Cramer, diagnosis day put her in panic mode. Immediately, she was looking for where she could run to and who could help her. She was trying to understand why this was happening to her family. She wished she could trade places with Joshua and take away his suffering; he did not want that for her. He knew that this was his destiny. For Mrs. Cramer, the only thing she could do was take it one day at a time. She is a fixer by nature, but this was one thing she couldn’t fix. She says the best thing you can do is follow your child’s lead and don’t give up. Ask for help if you need to and lean on your support system. For her, she leaned heavily on her hospital support system which consisted of the nurses, doctors, and social workers that understood what she was going through. There’s no right way to handle this tragic situation, but the one thing Mrs. Cramer could say was to never give up hope.
Joshua’s treatment began at NYU with Dr. Jeff Allen. At the time, the standard course of treatment was radiation, but they were waiting for Dr. Souwedaine’s trial to open up. Unfortunately, Josh failed too quickly and treatment with any other doctor was not an option. They didn’t divulge a lot to Joshua. He knew he had a brain tumor but he didn’t know he was dying. They never even used the word “cancer” around him until it came up in Dr. Allen’s office. Joshua took the diagnosis with stride and trusted they were making the right choices for him. He was treated throughout the summer after his June diagnosis and went back to school in September. He didn’t get the typical “honeymoon” or recovery time from radiation which made coming back to school a bigger struggle. He enjoyed school and enjoyed his friends but found it harder and harder to last through the school day. After Thanksgiving, he took a turn for the worse. He began having respiratory issues which led to him having to spend the rest of his life on a ventilator. He spent the majority of his time after that in the hospital, bouncing from the children’s hospital to rehab and then home until he had an issue with his feeding tube which led to him spending the next 3-4 months in the hospital. He lived out his final 2 weeks at home with his family. When his family came to terms with Josh’s fate, they were determined to do whatever it took to donate his tumor’s tissue. They knew how vital and scarce DIPG tumor tissue is to researchers such as Dr. Souweidane and if Josh’s tumor tissue could somehow help doctors extend and ultimately cure brain cancer, what an incredible legacy that would be for Josh.
Joshua left a legacy and an endless amount of memories that will never be forgotten. One of Mrs. Cramer’s favorite early memories of him was when he was about 5 months old and the babysitter kept him overnight. The next day, Mrs. Cramer went to see him, and the minute she walked through the door she got an incredible giggle and smile from him that stays with her to this day. One of Mrs. Cramer’s favorite last memories of Josh was one of his last baseball games. He was very last up to bat, 2 strikes on him and 3 balls in, and hit his first home run. A picture was snapped of him at that very moment, arms up running the bases, and they believe that that picture symbolizes Josh’s entry into heaven. This is how Josh is remembered- loving, happy, and full of joy. He was loved and cherished and will forever be missed. His journey showed his strength in the face of struggles and the lesson that he taught all those around him will never be forgotten: fight adversity with grace and dignity.