Army Strong: Troops inspire Midlands boy to beat cancer

8:09 AM, Nov 22, 2013   |    comments
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Columbia, S.C. (WLTX)-"Be strong, don't give up or your life will be gone," said 10 year old Evan Pertile.

At the age of 6, Evan was diagnosed with medullablastoma--a highly malignant cancer that starts in the back of your brain and spreads rapidly.

"It's agonizing. You're scared, you're afraid, you're angry, you have every range of emotion possible," said Evan's mom Rachel.
The diagnosis was followed by a call to St. Jude and a move to the hospital in Memphis the very next day.

It was there that Evan, a boy fascinated with our military, would begin his own battle.

Surgeries and chemo were mixed with holidays and even his kindergarten graduation.

But there was no whining, no giving up, just smiles.

"The first time he skipped into chemotherapy, and they figure well... he doesn't know what he's in for, because it was tough on those kids, it's really bad," said Rachel. " The second time he skipped onto the in-patient floor a month later, and they are like EVAN! He's like I love St. Jude, they have a playroom in here. It's fun being in-patient...and we're saying ohhh- we're not having fun."

The treatment slowly took a toll.

With his health deteriorating, Evan refused to eat, lost a lot of weight and his hair.

"He had big chunks of hair on the bed and literally I was looking and I was like--what's that???" said Rachel. "The nurse said his hair is falling out."

After telling a stranger about Evan and how much he loves the military, everything changed.

That stranger...happened to work at Ft. Levinsworth. In just three days, she made sure that the little soldier was no longer alone on the battlefield.

Evan's online website got tens of thousands of messages from our troops.

It started with the army... then quickly spread.

"Scottish troops are writing, English troops- literally people from all over the world in the armed services were writing letters and writing notes to my son to keep him strong and to encourage him to eat...and you know what- he started eating," Rachel said. "He said mom, I'm going to eat so I can be army strong!"

That was just the beginning- troops sent Evan care packages with his own uniform, backpack and gear.

"I thought it meant like something really special to me, Evan added. "Because it's a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet some of them and to get something from them, especially a purple heart."

Purple hearts... bronze stars... flags flown over Iraq and Afghanistan- Evan was becoming the most decorated officer.
His fellow troops were counting on him to push through.

"if you give up and you stop fighting, you have a less percentage of surviving," Evan said.

And he never did.

Evan is now a healthy 10 year old, his cancer undetectable. His second chance at life is an opportunity to inspire other little boys and girls to stay focused on the mission, to stay army strong, and most importantly-to stay alive.

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