Police award Dracut boy who just finished cancer treatment

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DRACUT — With rain clouds hanging over Dracut on Saturday afternoon, a convoy of Lowell Police cruisers, their emergency lights flickering, rolled down Broadway Road and pulled into the driveway of the home of 9-year-old Nelson Garcia and his family.

Peabody Police Sgt. Jim Harkins, along with several members of the Lowell Police Department, were there to deliver a $5,000 check to Nelson, who recently finished treatment for a rare form of cancer called nasopharyngeal carcinoma.

“We’re here to put a smile on your face,” Harkins told Nelson as the smiling boy and his family greeted the police in their front yard.

The check was provided by the nonprofit Cops for Kids with Cancer. The organization gives money raised by police all over New England directly to those age 21 or younger battling cancer and their families as a way to help them address the financial burdens that come with a cancer diagnosis.

According to the organization’s website, the charity has provided $4.3 million to 762 families across New England over the years.

“This is the best part of my job,” said Harkins after handing the check over to Nelson’s family outside their home.

Harkins, who is on the Cops for Kids with Cancer board of directors, said the organization receives recommendations for potential fund recipients. They then review the recommendations and make a vote.

Harkins said Nelson and his family were the obvious choice.

“It’s unbelievable and I’m just so thankful and grateful,” said Jaunita Green-Garcia, Nelson’s mother, on Saturday.

She explained it was just last year, while the family was living in Lowell, that doctors discovered a tumor in the back of Nelson’s nasal cavity. The discovery was diagnosed as nasopharyngeal carcinoma, a rare tumor of the head and neck that originates in the nasopharynx, according to the Johns Hopkins Medicine website.

Green-Garcia remembers a poignant comment Nelson made shortly after his diagnosis.

“He said, ‘I’ve been meaning to spend some time with you and daddy, but I didn’t want it to have to be while at the hospital,’” Green-Garcia recalls. “That made me check myself and realize that I’m working too much and not spending enough time.

“It’s crazy how life can stop you right in your tracks,” she added. “Once you think you’re doing everything right, something can happen that will make you stop, slow down, smell the roses and see what’s important.”

Green-Garcia said her son — who she describes as “an old soul” — remained strong throughout the chemotherapy and radiation treatment. She added there have been no signs that the cancer has spread.

“There’s so many people to thank,” Green-Garcia said of the medical teams that helped her son. “I just want to express how grateful I am.”

The family has since moved from Lowell to their new home on Broadway Road, situated next door to Brox Farm, where Green-Garcia works as the manager.

Green-Garcia is going to sit down with Nelson to discuss what to do with the $5,000, though she plans to put some of the money into a savings account she has set up for Nelson and his sisters.

“I’m also going to save some special to see what he wants to do,” Green-Garcia said. “They’ve been asking for a dog, so since we finally moved maybe they can have one.”

“I’m just overwhelmed with joy,” she added.

For more information about Cops for Kids with Cancer, or to donate, visit the organization’s website at copsforkidswithcancer.org. The organization also has a Facebook page.

Follow Aaron Curtis on Twitter @aselahcurtis.

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