SYRACUSE, Utah — Not only can Alec Unsicker face his own mortality with a smile, but he’s working to help others do the same.
At 19, the Syracuse resident is facing a terminal cancer prognosis by delivering what he calls “Smiles Packages” to other cancer patients.
The packages are custom collections of items Unsicker hand-picks for recipients, using information about what they like from their “Smiles Package” applications.
“Helping others makes me smile,” he said. “I forget about the pain.”
Last summer, Unsicker started his nonprofit AJU Foundation, named for his initials. The foundation’s purpose is to fund the packages he delivers.
So far in the last year, he and his family have delivered just more than 40 Smiles Packages and he hopes to deliver many more while he can.
“I’ve learned the importance of smiling and having a positive attitude,” Unsicker said. “I can’t imagine having to do this whole thing with a negative attitude.”
Unsicker’s health trials began when, at age 11, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor called a Medulloblastoma, an aggressive cancerous childhood tumor that often spreads.
Surgery took out a mass of the tumor. He also underwent a year-and-a-half of chemotherapy and radiation, his brother, Braydon Unsicker, said.
An MRI at that time showed him to be cancer-free, Braydon Unsicker said.
“He was good for three years.”
Then in December 2014 during a yearly checkup, doctors found cancer again. This time, it resurfaced in the base of his spine.
Unsicker underwent another two years of chemotherapy and radiation.
“The treatments slowed it down but have not stopped it by any means,” Braydon Unsicker said.
As doctors have said they no longer have any treatments for Unsicker, the family has turned to holistic treatments, Braydon Unsicker said.
Last summer, Unsicker got his GED — he had dropped out of school because of his medical treatments. After his graduation, he said he needed something to do besides just “hanging around the house all day.”
That’s when the idea for the foundation and helping other cancer patients began, Unsicker said.
“He thought back on what had helped him through his treatments,” Braydon Unsicker said. “There was family, people dropping by, those gifts, those smiles. He wanted to uplift them in that moment, put a smile on their face.”
A member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Unsicker said his service has helped focus on others instead of his pain.
Now 19-years-old, Unsicker’s actions also have inspired those around him to live better lives.
Chad Knavel was a co-organizer of a golf tournament held Friday, Sept. 8, that raised $18,735 for the foundation. Knavel said he has changed as a result of knowing Unsicker.
“He’ll find out about other people who have cancer and contact them, find out what will make them happy and what will make them smile,” Knavel said. “He is fighting something that is not a good situation for his own life by investing in others,” Knavel said. “He’s serving others and because of that, he is happy. He’s experiencing joy.”
Knavel enjoyed seeing Unsicker going around at the golf tournament happily greeting all he saw.
A highlight was giving Duncan Barlow, a golfer who participated in the tournament and who also is battling cancer, with one of his “Smiles Packages.”
Braydon Unsicker assists his brother in purchasing, assembling and delivering the packages.
“A lot of times, I wish we could switch places and I could be in his spot,” Braydon Unsicker said. “He really is a special kid. He has a big heart. People are amazed at his attitude. He knows what his situation is and he makes the best of it.”
Braydon Unsicker said he has watched his brother encourage cancer patients and give them hope.
“The kid is so strong,” he said. “Because of his big smile and big heart, if he dies in a year or five years, I know it’s what he’s supposed to be doing.”
Inspired by the trials of others, Unsicker said his burdens now seem lighter.
“Two weeks ago, I visited a mom with four kids,” Unsicker said about one of his “Smiles Package” deliveries. “She was amazing to me. I went through this and I didn’t have any responsibility, no children to take care of. …She has it so much harder than I do and she still is positive.”
Many times over the years, Unsicker said he has received anonymous gifts in the mail or on his porch.
“People are always asking what they can do for me,” Unsicker said. “I now have something you can do for me. Help me help others by putting a smile on others’ faces as you have mine.”
Information from: Standard-Examiner, http://www.standard.net