LAINGSBURG – Josh Righter was excited to catch up with Cayden Patrick.
Righter, a junior at Laingsburg High School, hadn’t seen his former teammate since the spring when they last hit the golf course during Patrick’s senior season. Righter wanted updates on how his friend was doing. Patrick, who has been battling a rare cancer called nasopharyngeal carcinoma since 2011, just wanted to talk about how Righter was doing.
“He was always thinking of me and wondering how I was doing, even though he was fighting cancer,” Righter said. “From the first time I met him, you could just tell he was a special person. He cared about others way more than himself.”
That meeting in early December was the last time Righter talked to his friend.
Patrick died Saturday after a near six-year battle with cancer. He was 18.
Patrick started playing golf after the physical demands of basketball, his first love, were too much to handle.
Wolfpack coach Greg Beavers, who has known the Patrick family for years, saw what the sport did for Patrick, who became one of the quiet kids around school after he was diagnosed with cancer.
“When he was on the course, a lot of people didn’t treat him differently, because they’re all playing golf, joking around and having buddy-buddy time,” Beavers said. “I think, in other places, he might have got that, where they were treating him differently.
“I think he loved the freedom of just being one of the guys.”
Times got tougher for Patrick once he graduated from Laingsburg. In early July, Patrick and his family went to California – a place the family traveled to often during the early stages of his cancer treatment – to undergo a procedure meant to mask the pain he was suffering from a procedure he underwent in March.
What his family didn’t know was that the cancer was spreading throughout his body. In September, on his mother’s birthday, about a month after his procedure, Patrick went to the emergency room and learned that the cancer had hit his bones, more parts of his stomach and his spine.
His mother, Rebecca, is glad that her son is no longer in pain.
“We decided that the only way Cayden is going to be healed is if the Lord intervenes and wants to do a miracle,” Rebecca said. “That’s what we prayed for and believed was going to happen.
“He decided to take him home. We know that Cayden truly is healed. …To know now that he’s golfing, running around and shooting hoops, all of those things, is so amazing to think that he’s definitely healed.”
Patrick passed away on his parents’ 22nd wedding anniversary.
“My husband and I have a very good marriage, and I feel like he knew it would be OK,” Rebecca said. “He’s very sentimental about everything. He looks at life as such a special gift, he always thankful for things … I told my husband that I think he knew it would be OK.”
Patrick and his older brother, Benjamin, 21, got to spend the weeks leading up to his death together. Benjamin returned from college in late December for winter break and has stayed in Michigan since.
He said their final moments together were “special.”
“Cayden was always a helper,” Benjamin said. “It was weird for me being the one to help him. This is who Cayden was. It was almost like a change of roles in my life. It was awkward, but it was extremely healthy for me to see that this is what Cayden was doing and that this is how I need to be.
“His name means ‘fighter.’ I just looked this up yesterday. It’s crazy, because that’s who he was and everything he stood for over the years.”
Contact James L. Edwards III at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.
The funeral service for Cayden Patrick will be open to the public. It will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday at Northpointe Community Church, 505 E Webb Dr. in DeWitt.