#parent | #kids | HFC Honoree RJ Ferguson Has Night to Remember | FEATURE


RJ Ferguson’s birthday is May 6. This past year he was turning nine years old. 

Just two days before his birthday, on May 4, his mother Martina and their family received a devastating blow. 

RJ had acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

“He does like jujitsu and Little League and so he’d always come home complaining about something,” his father Jason Ferguson shared on Monday from Prudential Center, “and then at night he would wake up and so we were struggling to get answers.”

“It was pretty shocking,” Martina, RJ’s mother, recalled, “and it’s been a journey to accept it and to realize that he is a tough kid. And he is a fighter. And we fight for him. He makes it easier to be positive and his outlook looks very good, he’s been progressing very well with treatment thankfully.”

Martina had the mother’s instinct leading up to that moment of his diagnosis. RJ would wake her at night, crying in pain, very emotional. Something that was very out of his character, Martina calling him the ‘toughest of my kids.’ 

“I started to look for answers and was dismissed by a lot of different places, (I was) told that he had growing pains, that he would and it would get better and it never did.”

“It was a journey of pushing for answers,” she said. Looking for answers and seeing their son in pain they took RJ to the Emergency Room at RWJ Barnabas’ Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick. There he went through an array of tests, which would ultimately uncover his acute lymphoblastic leukemia diagnosis. 

“It was one of those calls where you don’t really hear what they’re saying,” Jason recalls of the day, two days before RJ’s ninth birthday, that the hospital called with the news. “But the doctors that we’re working with are awesome. They kind of just put us at ease from the beginning when they broke the news to us.”

Tweet from @NJDevils: RJ leads the boys out!#HockeyFightsCancer | #NJDevils pic.twitter.com/OTEAh2vBz2

 

RJ is currently in his seventh month of a two-year treatment process. The Fergusons have been told that the first six months tend to be the most difficult.

“He gets up and does what he has to do. He’s very brave,” Martina said of RJ’s journey. 

“It’s supposed to get a little bit easier,” Jason said, “So I think he’s gone through the hardest part. But he’ll continue to get treatment once a week. And he’s got a port. So you know, it makes, he’s gonna want to play sports, but it’s a little bit challenging. But as long as the doctors okay him, he’s going to try to do that stuff.”

On Monday night, the power of sport was on full display. RJ was RWJ Barnabas’ Hockey Fights Cancer honoree. He and his parents, along with his older sisters Ryleigh and Emma, were given a special evening with meet and greets with the players, announcing the starting lineup in the locker room and the pre-game ceremonial puck drop, among many other moments. 

Tweet from @NJDevils: No one fights alone.#HockeyFightsCancer | @RWJBarnabas pic.twitter.com/o3sjBaGScT

It was an important experience for the entire family. 

“I think it lifts his spirit a lot,” Martina said, “and gives him something that when he looks back, he can remember the good things and hopefully use them to do even better things for other people.”

RJ has always been a Devils fan, thanks to NJ Devil. 

“When I was in Kindergarten their mascot came to our school and handed out hats,” RJ said about being a fan of the team. 

He was soft-spoken, and a little shy, in front of the bright lights of the cameras, focusing on him. But who could blame him? It’s a night in his honor. But when it comes to his older sisters, he perks up, ready for the younger brother’s quip. 

“They’re nice,” he says taking a pause then flashing a big smile, “sometimes!”

“He’s very funny when he wants to be,” sister Ryleigh later shot back with a laugh, typical older sister style. 

Tweet from @NJDevils: Prior to tonight’s game, RJ helped Brendan Smith with tonight’s starting lineup! #HockeyFightsCancer | #NJDevils pic.twitter.com/WdwkIhXxf7

What the Devils and RWJ Barnabas were doing on Monday night for RJ and his family is something that the Fergusons are so grateful for. It’s a night where they can focus on something good happening to their son and brother, after all he’s been through at just nine years old. His sister both said the thing RJ may have been the most excited for was to be on TV, “he’s always wanted to be on TV,” Emma laughed. 

And he was on TV, as part of the ceremonial puck drop, he and his dad made their way to center ice, and captain Nico Hischier and Oilers captain Connor McDavid joined them. As RJ and his dad walked the lavender carpet back to the stands, chants of ‘RJ! RJ!’ rained down from the Prudential Center crowd. 

“It’s awesome,” dad Jason said, “because I think as a parent, you think about all the things he misses, that he’s not able to do, and to have something this amazing, it’s like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So hopefully, like when he gets over this hill, he’ll look back and you know, it won’t have been all bad. He’ll remember this time and it’ll stand out and so it really means a lot to us.”



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