20181223__Axton 1

Adam Norman, left, Axton Norman, center, and Kari Norman, right spend time together at a children’s hospital in Fort Worth, Texas Dec. 23, 2018. Three-year-old Axton was recently diagnosed with Neuroblastoma, a type of cancer that affects mostly infants and young children. (Angela Sims/Killeen Daily Herald)

By Angela Sims

Herald correspondent

“I would have never thought that I would be in this place again or that it would be a worse situation than the first,” Kari Norman wrote in a blog dated Dec. 23. “I mean — in terms of tragedy and life-threatening situation for your child — I have paid my dues. I have already lost so many people, done the cancer thing with in the family. This wasn’t supposed to happen to us — not to my baby.”

Norman, who is an instructional technology facilitator for Lake Belton Middle School and mother of two children, started this life-changing journey Dec. 5.

“I picked him up early that day and he was screaming about his leg,” Norman said of her 3-year-old son, Axton. “He took a nap and then woke up limping and in pain. He wanted to go see his friend Maverick, so I think he acted tough for us so he could go. He went to his sissy’s game and played like normal. That night he hurt worse. I thought there is no way — he was just jumping and dancing.”

In a couple of short weeks after Axton’s first trip to the hospital, Norman received the news after talking with an oncologist and after Axton had a CT scan.

“The results from this were out right devastating,” Norman said. “(My husband), Adam (Norman), was walking back in as the surgeon was telling us and I couldn’t do anything but find his eyes. As my little boy laid on my chest, we received the worst news. Our sweet doctor was in the room crying with us and trying to reassure me. He (Axton) had a mass in his belly and it was most likely neuroblastoma. It was aggressive and sometimes difficult to treat.”

But the Harker Heights volleyball community has devised a way to help support the family in this time of need.

Jackson Aparicio, who works in Harker Heights and is the director the Heroes Volleyball Club in Central Texas, found out about Axton’s being diagnosed with neuroblastoma through Norman’s blog.

“When I read the blog, I felt nauseated — it’s the worst news a parent can receive,” Aparicio said. “I felt that we needed to fight this together, I felt that this was opportunity to do something more than just volleyball. I have a 16-year-old so you can’t help but think what if it was your child.”

Norman’s daughter, 12-year-old Kaleice Cain, is a setter for the Heroes Volleyball Club.

And as a way to support the family, Aparicio, came up with the idea to create a shirt that volleyball players, friends and family members can buy in an effort to pay the rest of the volleyball club dues for Norman’s daughter.

“The family shouldn’t feel alone,” Aparicio said. “It’s OK to ask and accept every blessing people give you. Sometimes, we feel like a failure because we can’t handle the situation ourselves. People want to bless you in these situations so open your hearts to blessings. Have an army of people to support you in every way. It’s always God plan, there’s always a reason for everything, even if we don’t understand it at the time.”

Aparicio’s idea of selling shirts has resonated with the Harker Heights community.

“I am so happy he is doing this,” said Losefo Losefo, a Harker Heights resident and coach for the Heroes Volleyball Club. “It is always sad to see this kind of situation, especially when it is so close to home.”

Lodefo said he is planning on buying a shirt for himself and his family.

“This shirt is a sign that we support the family,” Losefo said. “This situation scares me – my heart goes out to the family.”

The news for the young volleyball player and big sister, hasn’t been an easy pill to swallow.

“Telling your other child that their baby brother is this sick is a feeling unlike any other I can express,” Kari said. “Knowing she can’t be here for me to console she when she is scared is equally as heartbreaking.”

But there is some comfort knowing there are those who are supportive during this time.

“When I told my daughter what the club was doing for her, she grinned from ear to ear,” Kari said. “It is pretty heartwarming to know they thought of us.”

Cain was able to spend the holidays with her brother who is currently at a children’s hospital in Fort Worth.

Kari said her son will not be able to go back to work for the remainder of the year because her son needs to stay at the hospital for treatments.

“Financially, this will be a burden, but we are asking for as much prayer as we can get,” Kari said.

The shirts are available for $25 through the Heroes Volleyball Club website at www.heroesvolleyball.com.

Shirts are available to the public for purchase.

“We would like to sell one hundred shirts,” Aparicio said. “But if we could double that, it would be cool.”

Shirts can be ordered until Jan. 24, 2018. Orders can be picked up after 5 p.m. on 775 Indian Trail, Suite 300 in Harker Heights after Feb. 3.

The money raised will pay off Cain’s volleyball club dues and the rest will be donated to the family.

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