Sam Biggs, 5, shows his new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles watch. Earlier this year, Sam was diagnosed with a rare childhood liver cancer.
When Vicki Miller handed her 5-year-old nephew Sam Biggs his new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles watch at his home in Godfrey, a smile grew from ear to ear on the little guy’s face.
“I haven’t had a watch in 15 years,” he screamed, even though he hasn’t been alive for that long.
Sam frantically strapped his new prized heirloom on his wrist and off he went to show it to his dad and brothers, James, 13 and Lucas, 9. The watch was a gift from someone Sam didn’t even know, but all he cared about was it was the Turtles.
Sam is a TMNT fanatic and such a high-spirited kid, it’s hard to believe he was diagnosed with a rare childhood liver cancer, stage four pediatric hepatoblastoma, on March 22.
The cancer usually hits children under the age of 3, but in Sam’s case he was 5 when he was diagnosed with it. On July 23 Sam had surgery to remove 60 percent of his liver, which got rid of the tumor. The issue is it had spread to his lungs and there are several 1- to 3-millimeter spots there; tests are being administered to see if it is live cancer or just scar tissue. Sam has one more outpatient visit for chemotherapy to see if all the cancer has been caught. If not, he could have to go through more treatments down the road.
This traumatic experience would be enough to send most patients into a downward spiral toward depression — but not Sam. The gregarious tyke has seen his positive attitude rub off on his family, too.
“It’s made it a lot easier because if we were down all the time and depressed and sick we’d be a bigger mess than we’ve already been,” Sam’s father, Brian Biggs, said. “It would weigh on everyone a lot, but we just look at him and shake our heads.”
Doctors said the chemo would zap Sam of all his energy, along with the low blood counts that come from the hepatoblastoma. Brian said he and his wife, Lee Ann, were warned Sam would have bad days, but that hasn’t been the case.
“We were warned he would have days where he’d be sick and his belly would hurt and he’d be lethargic, and we’ve had zero of those days,” Brian said.
The outpouring of support for Sam has been overwhelming at times, Brian said. Family and friends have stepped up big and words can’t describe the appreciation from the Biggs family.
The Sam Biggs Benefit Auction has been scheduled from 2 p.m. to midnight on Aug. 30 at the Sportsman Club in Godfrey.
“When we found out (about the cancer), it was the darkest and scariest day of our lives by far,” Brian said. “We felt alone; we wondered if our child would die. The worst things started running through our heads. But then it went from that to the other extreme, with everybody stepping forward. I think we’ve cried more from how people have come to our aid, people we don’t know that heard the story. It’s hard to take in. I’m not one that’s ever asked for help and I still haven’t asked for anything; people just come and give it to me.”
Brian’s stepbrother and sister-in-law David and Stephanie Zimmerman have spearheaded the work for the benefit and done a super job. There will be a kids’ zone from 2-6 p.m. with face-painting, games and more for children, including a surprise visit by the genuine Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from the new movie coming all the way from Ontario, Calif. This is the big surprise for Sam, who also turns 6 on Sept. 2.
“Stephanie and my brother have done fund-raisers before so they pretty much took the ball and ran with it,” Miller said. “With ‘Sam’s Soldiers’ we all have a mission that day. Someone will be in charge, of parking, someone in charge of food, someone is in charge of vendors, and so on.”
The benefit will also include four live bands who have donated their time: Diamond Cut Blues Band, Marked in Stone, The Outsiders and Borderline. There will also be a live auction, silent auctions, tons of raffles, food, drinks, a bake sale and a corn hole tournament. Tickets are $25 for adults, $5 for kids and children 5 and under are free.
For additional benefit details or donations contact Stephanie Zimmerman at (314) 494-7555.
There is also a golf tournament set for Oct. 4 at Rolling Hills Golf Club in Godfrey. It’s a four-man scramble that starts at 1 p.m. Cost is $60 per person. Call Marv Miller at (618) 466-8363 for more information.
And if Sam’s day wasn’t brightened enough by the gift of his watch, he quickly learned it included a light that shined pictures of all four of the Turtles. As Brian showed him how to work it he squealed “awesome,” with a smile; that twinkling smile of happiness from a child in need that’s touched his family, friends and strangers alike and one that will be seen in tenfold when he meets his heroes live on Aug. 30.