Wineka column: Travis Casper not fighting alone
SALISBURY — During a recent community Night Out, sisters Ellie and Emma Rose Dishman set up a lemonade stand and earned $10.75 from their customers.
Ellie is 4; Emma Rose, 6.
A few days later, the sisters delivered their $10.75 to Travis Casper, a 27-year-old Rowan County man who has been fighting Hodgkin’s lymphoma for the past two years and is hoping that chemotherapy treatments have prepared him for a bone marrow transplant.
Just as the little girls came together for Casper, so did family, friends and the Salisbury Elks Lodge Saturday when a “A Day for Travis Casper” was devoted to raising funds for his road ahead.
“The whole thing is just amazing,” Ruthie Morehead, Travis’ mother, said Saturday during the noon-9 p.m. event at the Elks Lodge on South Main Street.
“We’re really overwhelmed by everybody’s contributions and hard work.”
The event site and all of Saturday’s high-quality raffle items were donated. Plus, magician Glenn Yost, deejay Eddy Harwood and five music acts performed for free.
Volunteers also prepared barbecue chicken dinners on site, and a five-card poker run between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. raised money, too.
Nathan Harris, a longtime friend of Travis’ stepfather, John Morehead, and one of the main organizers, says musicians approached the planning committee and asked if they could donate their time.
“That’s pretty unusual,” says Harris, who adds he can’t thank enough the individuals, businesses and Elks Lodge for all their time, talents and monetary contributions.
The same goes for Travis Casper.
Ruthie Morehead says her youngest son, Travis, is a private person who has dealt with the serious illness on his own terms.
“He doesn’t necessarily like all this attention,” she says, and she asked that his photograph not be used for this story.
“He doesn’t want to talk about it because he’s living this 24-7.”
Harris first approached John Morehead about the fundraiser in April, and the men purposely didn’t mention it to Travis for a month-and-a-half out of fear he would deep-six the whole thing.
That’s how private he has been.
But Casper attended the fundraiser Saturday and spoke with many people. He also stopped by the planning committee’s last meeting before the fundraiser to thank everyone personally.
Travis Casper is an East Rowan High graduate who lacks two courses to graduate from Catawba College, where he was attending night classes. Since his sickness, he put college on hold, though he had hoped to enter the Air Force with a four-year degree.
In the past, Casper has worked at the Rowan County Airport, logging hours in his spare time in hopes of one day gaining a pilot’s license. He also worked at Stoudemire Furniture in Spencer for Nick Bishop.
He might classify as an expert at video games.
“He’s a huge gamer,” Ruthie Morehead says. “That’s his thing.”
Casper also lifted weights, and his mother says he was always quite fit and healthy.
The Hodgkin’s lymphoma surfaced out of nowhere. During a beach trip over the July 4th holiday two years ago, Casper felt as though he were coming down with the flu.
Back home, he noticed a lump in a lymph node at his neck. A needle biopsy revealed he had a stage 4 cancer.
Casper went through eight months of chemotherapy and several weeks of radiation. For two months, his mother recalls, the cancer was in remission, but it soon returned.
Since then, he has had five more rounds of chemotherapy — three six-day treatments at Rowan Regional Medical Center and the last two six-day hospital stays at Duke University Medical Center in Durham.
The hope now is that the cancer will be in remission after the most recent chemotherapy, so that Travis will be able to have a bone marrow transplant at Duke.
In May, an 18-year-old man was identified in the national registry as a match for Travis. He is ready to be a donor when the time comes.
Ruthie Morehead explains that Casper and his match are not allowed to meet each other until a year after the treatment.
When that day happens, Ruthie and John Morehead predict it will be the greatest of stories.
Travis’ older brother, Brandon, a Salisbury police officer, was only a half match for the bone marrow procedure. Harris even checked into whether he could be a donor but learned that he was too old.
Harris decided if he couldn’t help with the bone marrow, maybe he could help with a fundraiser.
Casper, who lives with his father, Donnie, will travel back to Duke University Medical Center this week for a PET (positron emission tomography) scan to determine whether he’s ready for the bone marrow transplant.
If he is, Ruthie Morehead says, Travis will face a crucial 100-day period. First, there will be hospitalization. But after the transplant, he must be living within 5 to 10 minutes of the medical center, in case something goes wrong.
No matter what happens, things will be expensive.
John Morehead remembers running into his old friend Nathan Harris back in 2008. The men exchanged emails, and Morehead noticed that Harris’ email included the words “Nate helps,” or more exactly “natehelps.”
It referred to Harris’ role as a consultant for the manufacturing industry.
But now it has a much different meaning, John Morehead says.
It was a harbinger, for a day when everybody came together for Travis Casper.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263 or firstname.lastname@example.org