Community teams up for second-grader battling rare cancer

by: JAIME VALDEZ - Cole and Michelle Hexum say they plan to support others fighting cancer after the Hexums received so much support from the community. The Hexums have Christmas gifts planned for patients at Doernbecher Childrens SUBMITTED PHOTO - Unable to play flag football, Coles teammates re-named their team Coles Bros in his honor, winning the championship trophy Nov. 11. When the second-graders took the field last week at Tigard High School, they weren’t just playing for the championship trophy. They were playing for their best friend.

In September, Cole Hexum, 8, was diagnosed with Stage IV Burkitt’s leukemia — a rare, fast-growing type of leukemia that attacks the blood and bone marrow.

The diagnosis cost Cole his hair and has made him tired. But most crushing to the energetic Bethany boy is he hasn’t been able to play soccer or flag football.

It was a major blow to Cole, an avid sports fan who regularly balances playing on several sports teams at once.

“He’s a Go-Go-Go kid,” his mother Michelle Hexum said.

For the past three seasons, Cole has played on a local youth flag football team, The Destroyers.

The team’s defensive coordinator Derek Hahm has known Cole for years on various sports teams he has coached. He said Cole’s teammates were disappointed when they heard Cole was sick and wasn’t going to be able to play with them this season.

So they decided to do something about it.

‘Cole’s Bros’

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Cole Hexum; his parents, Michelle and Brian; and his brothers, Cade, 4, and Tyler, 17, have received tons of support from the community as Cole fights a rare and aggressive form of SUBMITTED PHOTO - Cole shows off the championship trophy his flag football team won in his honor on Nov. 11. Teammates wore jerseys with his name and painted messages on their faces to show their support.When Hahm’s son Tanner learned about his friend’s condition, Hahm said Tanner wanted to re-name the team in Cole’s honor.

“They wanted to dedicate the season to Cole,” Hahm said. “The kids were pretty excited about dedicating it to Cole.”

The Destroyers hung up their moniker for the season, instead adopting the name “Cole’s Bros” to show their support for their friend.

The players wore jerseys with Cole’s name and number (No. 10) on them and wore face paint reading “Go Cole!”

Cole’s name remained (albeit ceremoniously) on the roster, and Cole received his own jersey.

Even teammates who didn’t know Cole got into the spirit, wearing Team Cole T-shirts and face paint, Hahm said.

Cole wasn’t well enough to attend any of the team’s games, but that didn’t stop the Bros from going undefeated this year, winning each of their eight games in the pee-wee flag football league.

“It was pretty fun," the coach said. "These kids are really competitive. They’re probably the most competitive boys I know, and they didn’t want to lose. On top of that, they don’t want to lose for Cole. It was pretty intense.”

The team played its championship game at Tigard High School on Nov. 11. Cole wasn’t well enough to attend the game, but Cole’s parents Brian and Michelle Hexum made sure to be there, cheering on the team.

The players gave Michelle and Brian high fives on the sidelines and easily walking away with a 28-16 victory, Hahm said.

That night, the team made sure Cole got his own trophy.

“That was probably one of the biggest smiles I have ever seen him have,” Hahm said. “He was really proud of his buddies.”

Community support

by: JAIME VALDEZ - Cole tires easily these days, his mother Michelle Hexum says. Cole is usually a 'Go-Go-Go kid.'Cole's Bros aren’t alone in their support of Cole.

Several organizations have been rallying for the energetic 8-year-old over the past few months.

In October, Athletic Republic of Tigard donated 10 percent of its proceeds to Cole, and a special soccer tournament in Cole’s honor was held last weekend in Hillsboro. This fall, an indoor soccer team is going by the name Team Cole in his honor.

Cole was invited to the University of Oregon vs. Oregon State University Civil War football game this weekend and has gotten support from UO players who sported Team Cole insignias during a recent game.

Proceeds from a sold-out silent auction on Dec. 1 will go to Cole’s treatment, and the Northwest Youth Sports Association is donating a portion of its proceeds from Christmas tree sales to the family.

Michelle Hexum, herself a cancer survivor, said the show of support from the community has been staggering.

“It is pretty amazing,” she said. “I wish I could just go out and hug every single one of them and hug them and tell them the difference that they have made for our family. It is pretty unbelievable.”

Giving back

The Hexums have received so much support, Brian said, that they have started Cole’s Cause, a group dedicated to helping kids battling cancer.

“When Cole is done with this treatment, all the fundraising will go to help pay his medical bills,” his father said. “But the leftovers will go to Cole’s Cause, where he can start to help out other kids with cancer.”

The family is already paying it forward, with plans to present gifts this week to two patients at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital.

On Monday night, Cole was feeling good — better than he has in a long time.

“It’s because of Thanksgiving," he said. "I need some turkey. And some taffy.”

But the energy is short lived. Cole spends about 80 percent of his time in the hospital getting treatment.

Burkitt’s leukemia is a very aggressive cancer. About 90 percent of Cole’s bone marrow was affected by the cancer, Michelle Hexum said. The cancer doubles in size every few hours, but so far, Cole’s prognosis is good, she added.

If things go according to plan, his treatment will end in February, and he’ll be able to return to school — and the football field — next year.

“I want to play sports again about a month after I’m done (with treatment),” said Cole, bouncing as he sits on a couch at his home in Bethany. “Hopefully in the spring.”

For more on Cole and his journey visit

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