By Pamela Brownstein
Becki Abrams’ green eyes sparkle when she talks about her goal of completing her first half marathon.
Her eyes also mist up slightly when she talks about her reason for running the race: her 6-year-old son, Nick, who was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2012. She said despite all the treatments and doctor’s visits and struggles he has faced since then, “he always had a smile on his face.”
It was his courage and positive attitude that caused several members from the Abrams’ church to dedicate their local chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training in his honor. Thus, Team Nick was born.
Becki felt inspired by her son and joined the team to have the opportunity to help find cures and more effective treatments for blood cancers. She admits it was a daunting decision at first. “I’ve never been a runner, but I just decided to do it,” she said.
In June, Becki started training for the Rock N Roll Half Marathon in Savannah on November 9. Along with the other members of Team Nick — Jaime Dailey-Vergara, LeeAnn Dodge, Heather Sheehan, Melanie Ott, Jane Abrams and Coaches Derek Clements and Kami Bodnar — Becki has been running all over town, often waking up before 5 a.m. for 5:30 a.m. start times. The training started out slow, and gradually built up to longer runs. In September, Becki wrote on her Team Nick fundraising page, “Today I ran/jogged/walked 10 miles in 2hrs 30min. That is pretty good considering that I would have never thought I would be running a half marathon and now I’m almost there and it feels great. It also makes you feel good knowing that you are helping find a cure for Leukemia.”
Originally from Wisconsin, Becki moved to Beaufort in 1987 and graduated from Beaufort High School. She met her husband, Jeff, who was a golf pro at the time, while they were both working on Fripp Island. The two were married in 2000 at the Baptist Church of Beaufort. A horse-drawn carriage took them from the church to the Downtown Marina where they caught a boat that brought them to their reception at the Beaufort Yacht and Sailing Club on Lady’s Island.
Their daughter Emma was born in November 2003, and Nick was born December 29, 2006. Both children go to Beaufort Montessori at Beaufort Elementary School.
In early 2012, Nick’s parents became concerned when their usually active kid was tired and his body wasn’t fighting infections. Under the watchful care of the doctors at Beaufort Pediatrics, the Abrams brought Nick to the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in Charleston for a series of blood tests.
Becki said she will never forget the day they received the devastating news, February 17, 2012. From that moment, she was on a crash course trying to learn as much accurate information as possible and understand the meaning of his diagnosis.
“Nobody knows about it until you’re going through it,” Becki said.
Fortunately, Nick’s type of Leukemia is highly curable if caught in time, and he is currently in remission. But that means he still has to go to treatments at MUSC every eight weeks for three years.
His parents said he takes it all in stride, and he looks forward to some type of reward after each appointment, usually in the form of Nerf guns, Legos or sporting goods.
Another important aspect of keeping Nick well involves an emphasis on cleanliness. They are big on handwashing and there are bottles of GermX in almost every room of their house, and also in the office of Pike Appraisals, the company that Becki’s family owns and where she works. She would also encourage everyone to get a flu shot.
Making sure Nick stays safe from germs means he often wears a mask with Mickey Mouse on it to school. “He never complained about it once,” Jeff said.
Becki said one of the hardest parts for Nick has been not being able to play all the sports he likes such as golf, baseball and football. But he still enjoys watching his favorite teams, including the USC Gamecocks, which Jeff, a Clemson alum, jokes is a little disappointing.
The family also never misses a Beaufort Eagles home game. Jeff volunteers his time with the high school football team to work as a coach for the kickers.
When it comes to sports, Becki played volleyball and basketball in high school, but she never really ran before. That’s why she was excited to finish her first official 5K earlier this month.
The couple has been touched by the outpouring of support since Nick got sick. “You don’t now how many people and friends you have until you are in need,” said Jeff gratefully.
On Becki’s fundraising page on the Team In Training web site, it’s clear that many people do care because the donations are more than double her original fundraising goal of $2,300.
Becki said, “I would like to thank my family and friends for their support, and also Team Nick and our great coaches — Derek Clements and Kami Bodnar.”
Although the future still presents challenges — even after his three years in remission, Nick will have checkups every six months for the next 10 years — the Abrams take it day to day and enjoy the time they have together.
Jeff said, “After everything Nick’s endured, he’s destined for great things.”
Becki agrees, and with only weeks to go before the big race, she is looking forward to crossing the finish line for Team Nick.