In 2018, the Herber family got the news no family wants to hear: Their 4-year-old son, Nathan, had cancer.
It was an aggressive form of cancer that would need aggressive treatment to better Nathan’s chances of survival.
The family had to quickly pivot to deal with a diagnosis that hit them out of the blue.
“We thought things were pretty awesome … you know, not a care in the world,” Andy Herber, the boy’s father, told Fox News. “Two weeks after his fourth birthday, literally sitting next to Mickey Mouse, he was getting an IV infusion of strong chemotherapy.”
The treatments would continue for 900 days, changing the Herbers’ lives forever.
One bit of normalcy that Nathan lost during his fight with cancer was his ability to go to school.
“The oncologist said that his immune system won’t be able to handle fighting off any of the infections, so we pulled him entirely from school,” Andy Herber said.
In and out of the hospital, Nathan spent over a month on life support.
“He had just no ability to fight off anything,” his father said. “It’s heartbreaking how sick he was. … It was day to day where we didn’t think he was going to make it.”
If Nathan was doing particularly well, he’d occasionally attend class at St. Francis of Assisi School in Rochester, Minnesota — but when he couldn’t, his twin brother Justin made sure he wasn’t forgotten by placing a stuffed monkey in his classroom chair.
The teachers and staff would all ask Nathan’s family how he was doing.
“Every time I would drop the kids off at school … like every teacher and the custodians and the principal’s office staff and the kids would all say, ‘How is Nathan today?'” Andy Herber recalled.
On March 25, Nathan completed his last round of chemotherapy, and the Herbers celebrated.
Part of the day’s festivities included driving to the school so Nathan could say hi to a few of his friends. When they showed up, they were met with a huge lineup.
“In celebration of his last day of cancer treatment today, kindergartner Nathan Herber was driven through [the] St. Francis of Assisi School parking lot as students, faculty, and staff waved and shared their congratulations from a safe distance,” Rochester Catholic Schools shared on Facebook.
“The St. Francis of Assisi School community has stayed very connected and continues to support and pray for this family,” principal Barb Plenge said. “We look forward to being reunited in the fall.”
The turnout of teachers and classmates was a huge encouragement to Nathan — but it was heartwarming to his parents, too.
“He was supposed to just kind of go say ‘Hi’ to his pre-K class, you know, the classmates that he had met,” Herber said. “Then it turned into the entire school … 300 people chanting, ‘Nathan.'”
“It was a pretty powerful moment.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.