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Local 'superhero' succumbs to rare cancer

Nine-year-old fought to the end, grandfather says
Nine-year-old Aaron Lamarche wore a Batman costume during a community superhero walk on Mar. 11, 2016 to raise money for his medical expenses. Sue Sgambati/BarrieToday

The community that rallied behind nine-year-old Aaron Lamarche is now mourning his passing.

The Baxter boy succumbed to a rare childhood cancer last Wednesday at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto after a courageous 19-month battle.

"Aaron fought to the end," said his heartbroken grandfather Wayne Lamarche.

"He never complained. He would apologize all the time for all the trouble he was putting us through."

Aaron was diagnosed just after his eighth birthday with a rare type of cancer called ependymoma that forms in the brain and spine. 

He endured chemotherapy and radiation but the cancer was incurable. 

Hundreds of people, including Essa Township Mayor Terry Dowdall, 60 firefighters from ten local departments, police and paramedics turned out on Mar. 11, 2016 for a superhero walk to raise money for Aaron's medical expenses. 

Aaron dressed up as his favourite character Batman while schoolmates and parents also wore costumes and carried signs of support as they walked through the subdivision around his school in Baxter. 

The emergency services vehicles formed a parade and Aaron was declared Fire Chief of Simcoe County to cheers from the crowd.

He had his last round of treatments in December and even went to school a couple of days a week in January.

"We did everything we could for Aaron. But he started deteriorating quite rapidly by the time February came along," said Lamarche, who kept a constant vigil at Aaron's bedside along with Aaron's grandmother Debbie.

"As the disease progresses it gets more aggressive. Then you're dealing with bigger issues all the time. It's not a nice way to go."

Aaron spent the last three months of his life in hospital.

His grandfather says the brave, generous child was aware of who was around him and always summoned the strength to acknowledge his visitors, despite being gravely ill. 

"He communicated right to the end with whoever came to visit," said Lamarche, adding Aaron had a lot of visitors - students, teachers, nieces, nephews, uncles, aunts and hospital staff he befriended during his stay.  

"He always took the time to communicate with all of them to let them know he knew they were there."

In February and March Aaron was still mobile and talking but in April and May, as he suffered more small seizures, he would loose more abilities to the point where he was bedridden and couldn't even sit up.

And he lost his eyesight.

"It was really miserable and he was still not miserable," his grandfather proudly recalls.  "He was still a good kid. He was still upbeat. He's just never let things like that bother him. He just fought everything. He was a fighter."

And a giver, even in death.

He donated his brain and spinal cord to research his rare form of childhood cancer.

"It's necessary to research and find out with some of these rare ones, what's going on and what's causing them," said Lamarche. 

A celebration of Aaron's life will be held at Living Faith Community Presbyterian Church, 206 Murphy Road in Baxter on Sunday May 28.

Visitation starts at 3 p.m. and the service at 4 p.m. with a reception to follow.

The family says that memorial donations to Sick Kids Foundation (Oncology) would be appreciated.

His grandfather is expecting a large turnout to remember the boy who touched many lives. 

"He was very well liked," said Lamarche. "It's been unbelievable for us. It's been hard. Very, very hard road."

"Aaron and I were very close."  



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Sue Sgambati

About the Author: Sue Sgambati

Sue has had a 30-year career in journalism working for print, radio and TV. She is a proud member of the Barrie community.
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