Parker Matthew Nork
May 10, 2007 - March 11, 2017
This has to be one of the hardest things I have ever done. Create a website in memory of your 9 year old son. No mother or anyone for that matter should have to endure such pain. I am hoping I find some sort of solace, some sort of peace, some sort of therapy in doing so. I am a Graphic Designer by trade, but was put on this Earth to be a mother. A mother to two beautiful beings for the last 9 years. My life will go on, I will continue to be the mother I once was to my beautiful 11 year old daughter, Payton. A girl who lost her best friend, her brother, her world.
Parker was a beautiful soul. His smile could light up the darkest days. He came into this world smiling and took it by storm. Such a sweet personality, a kind soul. He was funny as hell, witty, so smart but a complete space cadet at the same time. He had no time management whatsoever, he wasn't a big fan of school, he hated homework and all he cared about was sports.
He started watching Sports Center in like pre-school. I thought he was nuts. I didn't know any 3 year old interested in all of the games that had been on the previous day and just watched highlights of them in a loop. No Spongebob, no Sesame Street. Sports Center. He was so focused on hockey - a trait he must have gotten from his father. We started him with some tiny nets and sticks he could use in the house or out in the garage. From there he was signed up for our Rec Roller Hockey league we had in town. By the time he was 6 he was playing in the U10 league. From there came the ice hockey with the Toms River Blackhawks Hockey Club and his interest in being a goalie. It was his true calling. I remember being so uncertain about it. I didn't want him to not be able to emotionally handle losses, blame, mistakes. He was so well tempered, always happy. His father went out and got him all of his equipment and we never looked back. He was a natural.
Parker also loved football and lacrosse. He excelled at most everything he tried. He was super quick on his feet and was a tiny guy, I always said it was his low center of gravity that made him so agile. He started flag football in 1st grade with the Southern AYF in town. From there he went to pads. He was always the smallest kid. In class, on the field, out on the ice. It never stopped him. He got his nickname "Turtle" from his football coaches after they started full pads. Every time he got knocked down, he would scramble on his back trying to get up, like a turtle. From then on, everyone called him Turtle. He had many nicknames, Turtle, Park, Bud, Nork, Jackass (that was his father's favorite for him). Everyone loved him. No matter where he was, what he was doing, everyone knew him. Everyone wanted to be his friend. Teachers wanted him as a student, coaches wanted him as a player, nurses wanted him as a patient. The list goes on.
He was my best friend. We had a very special relationship. He needed me so much and I him. He was always so close to me. Hugging me, kissing me, holding my hand, laying on me, resting his head on my shoulder. His father always said he was so close to me all the time he was "trying to get back in". I loved him with my whole heart and soul. It is true what they say, the bond between a mother and a son is a true miracle.
On February 17, 2017 Parker was diagnosed with ALL Leukemia after several visits to doctors, specialists and a slew of testing. Our whole world was rocked. How could this be? A totally healthy, active 9 year old boy, our boy, has cancer? It didn't make sense. It started with a small lump on the top of his head. It was so small that I didn't notice it for who knows how long until one day, sitting in the locker room after hockey practice, Parker bent over to take off his skates and I saw it. A small, round, pink bump. I didn't even know it was a bump until I ran my fingers across it. I had asked him how long it was there and he didn't know, although he knew it had been there for a while. It didn't hurt, it didn't move, it didn't do anything. I did what any other mother would do and started making appointments. First appointment was with our local dermatologist, then an ultrasound, then the pediatrician, then back to the dermatologist, but this time at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. No one knew what it was. They told us it was scar tissue from wearing his hockey mask too much. They said it was pushing down and rubbing his scalp and damaging the tissue and creating scar tissue. They told us his hockey mask was too small. We got him a bigger mask. It didn't matter, the bump was still there.
After several weeks of dragging him around CHOP did a punch biopsy and discovered that it contained immature B-Cells that shouldn't be there. They were a representative of Leukemia and had presented itself in a rare way, as a bump on his head. They rushed us to the ER after their findings for emergency blood work to determine if it was in fact Leukemia. I was never so scared in my life. We didn't know what was going on. After driving the over hour drive to CHOP he was admitted into the ER and examined, poked, prodded and what felt like an eternity, was sent home after finding a completely normal CBC blood panel. We were so relieved! We were trying so hard to keep it together for Parker that when they told us he was OK there were tears of pure relief and happiness.
The next day I recieved a call from the dermatologist that since his blood work came back normal, they were going to recommend we see the Oncology department for further testing. It was basically out of their realm of expertise and it was still unknown what the bump actually is. My heart stopped again. There is no easy way to tell a parent that they have to make an appointment with an Oncololgist. But I did. And we went. Nothing can prepare you to visit a children's oncology office. I kept telling myself that Parker doesn't belong here. He doesn't look like any of these kids. He isn't sick. He is totally fine. He just played 8 months of ice hockey with practices and back to back games every weekend.
His Oncologist wanted to proceed with their standard tests to get an official diagnosis. We agreed and on February 16, 2017 we went in for a bone marrow biopsy. We were so confident that he was going to be OK since his blood work came back normal. We were devastatingly wrong. His biopsy came back with the same cells confirming that he had Leukemia. They told us it was so early that it was considered a "precursor" since they don't label children's cancer in stages. We caught this so early, and his prognosis was so good, we prepared ourselves for a fight like no other.
I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would have to tell my only son, my baby, that he has cancer. I also had to tell his sister - and every family member and friend. I thought that was the hardest thing I had ever done. I was so, so wrong.
Parker was diagnosed on Friday, February 17, 2017 and 22 days later, on March 11, 2017 he was gone. No one knows why. We have no answers. We have no one to blame. That day I had to say goodbye to my boy. The one that I told every day that I was going to take care of him and everything was going to be OK. I had to tell my daughter that her brother had lost his fight after telling her everyday that he was going to be OK. We all had false hope that he would make it through his journey. We thought he was going to get through this like so many other kids had. Our family is broken. I am broken. I miss him every second of every minute of every hour of every day. It is hard to breathe. It is hard to live. I see him everywhere. The house is filled with him. He still has his laundry in his room he was supposed to put away.
I get up out of bed every day because I have a daughter that loves me and needs me. I have a husband that loves me and needs me. As much as I can't bear to live without Parker, I have no choice. Each day is its own struggle. I hide behind closed doors and cry silently when they are around. When I am home alone, I cry hard, and loud and ask why. I ask how. I say I don't understand. I ask for Parker to guide me and help me through this unbearable pain. This pain I have never experienced before. I go on to preserve his legacy. His short 9 years with us has been exceptional. His life was happy. It was full of love and support and wonderful people. I will miss him for eternity until we are together again.
"and she loved a little boy very, very much - even more than she loved herself."
The Giving Tree
- Shel Silverstein
Parker’s Army is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization established in the memory of Parker Nork, an avid athlete, who passed away after a short battle with ALL Leukemia at the young age of nine. To memorialize his beautiful life, the organization seeks to raise funds through various community events to provide scholarships to high school student athletes, to help fund area youth recreational programs and hockey programs and to donate to help in the fight to cure childhood cancer.