Liam Canard, 14, has been watching his dream come true from the dinner table.
Crews have uprooted trees, poured cement and installed a batting cage in the Canard family’s backyard in North Raleigh while Liam undergoes treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
On Wednesday, the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Eastern North Carolina officially presented him with the 55-foot-long batting cage, complete with new baseballs, a pitching machine and $500 to Dick’s Sporting Goods.
“I always dreamed of having a batting cage,” Liam said. “I thought it’d be easier to have it in the backyard.”
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Friends from his travel baseball team and classmates from Sanderson High School gathered in his backyard for the celebration and to try out the new cage.
Liam’s batting cage was a unique wish that the local Make-A-Wish staff has never seen before, said president Kristen Johnson. The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Eastern North Carolina grants about 200 wishes a year to sick children east of the Orange County line, said Angeline McInerny, vice president of mission delivery.
More than 50 percent of those wishes involve Disney and more than 80 percent of the wishes involve some sort of travel.
It’s key to give children what they wish for, Johnson said.
“(The wishes) give our kids some control in a time when things seem out of control,” Johnson said.
It was certainly the case for Liam, said his mom, Annette Canard.
“He’s always been positive, but he’s a little more cheery,” she said of Liam since the construction of the batting cage began.
Continuing treatment and play
Liam, a ninth-grader at Sanderson, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma last year and has had several surgeries and rounds of chemotherapy and radiation to treat it. He’s played baseball, on a school and travel team, through the entire process.
His parents were unsure if they should let him play, but an oncologist at UNC Hospital told them there was no harm, so long as Liam felt strong enough to do it.
Chemotherapy was like having the flu every day, Liam said, and having cancer was scary. Cancer treatment can weaken patients’ immune systems, which meant Liam was out of the school for the first half of eighth grade at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School.
“I didn’t know what to do,” he said. So he did what he knew best: Played baseball.
Liam has played baseball since he was 4 years old. He’s normally a catcher and changed positions while undergoing chemotherapy.
Now, he plays with his travel team, the North Carolina Developmental Baseball Rivercats, and plans to join the Sanderson team in the spring.
But Liam is not done dealing with his illness.
The morning after his batting cage party, he will head to Chapel Hill for surgery to remove another potentially cancerous lymph node in his chest.
If the lymph node is cancerous, Liam will begin a more aggressive chemotherapy treatment, his dad, Jim Canard, said. After chemotherapy, Liam would likely have a stem cell transplant.
“It’s different this time,” Annette Canard said. “He’s not letting it get to him as much ... he realizes he’s got a lot to look forward to, (the batting cage) being one of those things.”