Xander Rocks!

Well, boys and girls, this past week was most definitely something folks in the media refer to as a “busy news week.” Between the Steve Spurrier’s “resignation” announcement, Steve Sarkisian and Randy Edsall’s termination and Will Grier’s failed drug test, the stories have practically written themselves. It’s been an all-you-can eat buffet for sports commentators, plenty of talking points and topics to debate, enough to fill everyone’s time slots and columns.

Like most, I, too, have formed my own opinions on all of the above, and like most, I have probably invested too much time and energy discussing the stories with friends and family. But, the topics warranted the extra attention and will no doubt continue to be talking points well into the off -season. Right now, though, I have something more important to share with you. Something that means more to me than a failed drug test or a disappointing season.

It’s the story about a boy named Xander.

My husband has known Xander’s father, Brian, since the 5th grade, and over the years, we have become very close with both he and his wife, Denise. We have shared weddings, birthdays, holidays and the annual pig roast at their house ─ which is really just an excuse to get everyone together to drink Brian’s homemade beer!

Like us, Brian and Denise have two children: The youngest is a little girl, and the oldest a 8-year-old named Xander. Our children have known each other since birth, and while we could always have made a little more time to get the families together, we consider them some of our closest friends.

Xander and his family.
Xander and his family.

For Brian and Denise, the last eight months have been the most difficult of their lives. It’s been a living hell because on February 12th, a doctor told them their son had a brain tumor. While doctors were able to remove 98% of the tumor, 2% remained embedded in Xander’s brain stem and spinal fluid ─ he was ultimately diagnosed with an extremely aggressive form of Medulloblastoma.

Xander is only 8-years-old, and words like chemotherapy, radiation and gene-targeted therapy are a part of his daily vocabulary. He should be in school, running around on the playground bragging to his friends about what he’s going to be for Halloween. Instead, he’s in a hospital fighting for his life.

As a parent of young children, my mind is unable to fully grasp the emotions my friends undoubtedly experienced when they heard the word cancer. And, I have no way to remotely understand the fear and helplessness they feel trying to protect their baby from a disease they can’t control. But, what Brian and Denise have been able to control is their strength.

Xander with my kids at his fundraiser.
Xander with my kids at his fundraiser.

While most marriages might fall apart in such a devastating time, their love for each has seemingly strengthened. Despite the adversity, they continue to use words like power, confidence and miracle…even during some of the most difficult hours. Brian and Denise have also unselfishly remained committed to updating their family and friends on Xander’s condition and continue to express their gratitude for the prayers that, according to Brian, have “kept us going and have the power to help make miracles happen.”

This past Sunday morning, Xander was admitted to the hospital after having a severe seizure. He was heavily sedated and intubated so doctors could remove fluid from his brain. As difficult as it was to type the words, Brian wrote this on his Facebook page:

“Despite all of the adversity and negativity, we can do this, and we will! My son is alive!…Xander is going to wake up, we will get the breathing tube out, we will monitor him, we will get a home health nurse to help us, we will continue his treatment, we will manage his symptoms, we will keep him out of the hospital, and we will get him well. Thank you all for your love and support throughout this journey. We will never give up.”


On Monday, the tube was removed. Xander opened his eyes and smiled! A small miracle for a little boy and his amazing family.

I know we all have extremely busy lives, and at times, fight to just make it through the day. But if you have a moment today or tomorrow or even next week, please send a prayer or positive thought Xander’s way, and if you leave a comment below on this blog…I will make sure Xander’s parents see it!

34 thoughts on “Xander Rocks!”

  1. Thanks for sharing Shannon…and for helping us all to remember what is really important and to have perspective in all that we do today. Thoughts and big prayers to Xander and the entire family. Stay strong young man!

  2. I can remember meeting Brian and Denise years ago… I am amazed and inspired by their strength. We are sending lots of prayers to Xander for his full recovery. Thank you for sharing their story and reminding us about what is most important. Family, friendship and love.

  3. I will pray that Xander continues to improve and regain full health. He looks like such a happy and spunky little boy in his picture. My daughter is 8yrs old and I can only imagine what Xander’s family are going through. Prayers, faith and hope are what will get them through this and they are already doing a great job.
    God Bless Xander and his family. <3 <3

  4. Sending thoughts and prayers to Xander’s family and of course to him! I just gave birth to my first kids, now 3-week-old twins, and I cannot imagine going through cancer with them, but I feel you have to keep fighting and I’m glad to hear this family fights on! <3

  5. As a former Charlottean I have seen pray for Xander in many posts. Thank you for sharing his story. Praying for the family and Xander!

  6. I’m a Hen Hud graduate with Brian and Jerry. I, too, have known Brian since elementary school. While he and I didn’t hang with the same crowd in school, our district was so small that even 20+ years later, I feel close to my former classmates. I honestly think about Brian and his family everyday and I pray for a miracle for them. Thank you for writing this.

  7. Xander you are a true warrior, a fighter and a survivor! The best part of your life is ahead of you! You will be ok and you are a living miracle! We are lifting you and your family up in prayer every day! I’m currently at a women’s retreat in Julian and all 100 of these women are praying for your total healing Xander! You are a strong and brave boy! Sending lots of love to you, your sister and your mom and dad! Can’t wait to meet you one day! The Vina family in California (we met your parents on our honeymoons together. They are amazing!)

  8. Have been praying for Xander since we first heard about him. Prayer is a powerful thing and God’s will WILL be done. Keep praying for him and his family.

  9. Uncle Gary and Aunt Sandy are praying for you everyday!! You will get better and beat this and enjoy the rest of your life!!! Love you, Xander!

  10. Kacy, Callie and I pray for Xander every night. We don’t know him personally, but they go to the same school. He and his family are in our constant thoughts and prayers. Keep fighting, Xander! We support you!!!

  11. We continue to share Xander’s progress with a prayer group that keeps him and his family in our daily prayers. We pray for Xander’s healing and God’s blessings for this dear family.

  12. Prayers to Zander and his family from Bangkok, Thailand….God is good all them time…In Jesus’ name, Amen…kisses and hugs on Angels’ wings from us to you.

  13. Keeping Xander in our prayers – miracles do happen and we are praying for total healing. God Bless you all – stay strong!

  14. My thoughts and prayers will continue to be lifted up for u all. I haven’t had the pleasure to meet Xander but got to meet his little sister at the bus stop while walking my dog Rio. I live around the corner and pray for u all daily! I truly believe in the power of prayer!

  15. I have followed everything that has been going on and being a mom of a 13 year old I can’t even begin to imagine! I as well as my family have continued and will continue to pray! MAY GOD BLESS YOU ALL!!!

  16. May God and all the Saints be with Xander and all of his family. “When two or more are gathered in His name…there is love strength and Grace” there are more than I can count praying for Xander and family…that is truly a Blessing. We are all family in an extended chain which includes friends and so we pray all together for a special boy and his family. God bless and may the Angels protect all.


  17. Shannon
    I would like to know Xander’s last name so I can look up an obituary if there is one. My daughter is the best friend of the mother of one of Xander’s classmates & friend. My daughter has given periodic updates & I have shared them w/ my prayer group. We will continue to pray for his family. Ruth Thorpe

  18. Never give up Xander! Keep fighting the fight! I will pray for God to touch you and heal you! I will also pray for strength for all of Xanders family and friends.

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