- December 22, 2014
Not long before 13-year-old Weston Hermann was to take the ice in May with his Gulf Coast Flames teammates in Ellenton, he was bent over in the arena's parking lot ... throwing up.
Unfortunately for the Lake Club resident, waves of nausea are a way of life.
Diagnosed with a glioma brain tumor in 2014, he has lived almost half his life dealing with effects of cancer.
His parents, Jared Hermann and Marcie Hermann (who are divorced), were hoping his third round of chemotherapy finally had eradicated the disease from his body, but seizures in May led to an exam which confirmed the tumors had returned. A few days after the diagnosis, a port was inserted for his fourth round of chemotherapy — once a week for 52 weeks — and Weston Hermann headed to the rink.
He scored two goals that day.
How did he keep his energy up while his body was trying to reject the chemotherapy drugs?
"I honestly don't even know," said Weston Hermann, who is a Bradenton Christian student. "The more my adrenaline kicks in, I only think about hockey. It's a lot easier to think about that, what you need to do in a game, than what comes before and after."
What came before included two cancer surgeries to his brain — in Boston in 2014 and in Philadelphia in 2017 — along with the chemotherapy. Doctors have said brain cancer is no longer an option as further surgery would leave him paralyzed. The tumors are attached to the left side motor strip (primary motor cortex) of his brain.
"Doctors have said there is a 50% chance this chemotherapy will work," Jared Hermann said. "But we need a cure. Half his life he has been battling this ... half his life. He doesn't talk much about it.
"I don't know anything worse than watching your child suffer."
Among Jared Hermann's frustrations is the lack of new cancer drugs. Included in the drugs his son is taking is vinblastine, which came out in 1958.
"That was the year the Hula Hoop was invented," Jared Hermann said. "He is taking drugs from 62 years ago. That's not right."
To help with that search, the Drive by Fundraiser for the V Foundation is being held from 4-6 p.m., Friday, Sept. 4 at the Lake Club Grande Clubhouse. Signs, purchased with donations (businesses $500, individuals $200), will line the driveway while people will pass through and donate as well.
Although Jared Hermann said his son has grown more quiet and reserved through his cancer treatments, he continues to be available to tell his story.
"I asked him, 'Do you want to use your story to help other kids?'" Jared Hermann said. "He said, 'Yes.'"
Weston Hermann said he will be present at the Lake Club fundraiser because, like his dad, he is hoping for a new medication that doesn't sap his energy and leave him nauseous.
"The types of medical stuff we have is so outdated," he said. "It doesn't help our situation."
Lakewood Ranch's Dick Vitale, the Hall-of-Fame broadcaster who is on the V Foundation board, met Jared and Weston Hermann three years ago while eating at the Capital Grille at the Mall of UTC. Jared Hermann thanked Vitale for his work raising funds for pediatric cancer research and Vitale invited them to join him. Jared Hermann shared videos of his son playing hockey with Vitale.
Vitale wanted to do something for Weston Hermann so he called Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper in October of 2017 and asked if he could get a Lightning jersey with a No. 1 on it. Cooper wanted to do more.
So Weston Hermann went to a Lightning practice and not only visited with all the players, but skated with them.
"The skill they have doesn't make sense to me," Weston Hermann said. "I didn't know what to do at the time, and it mostly was about seeing them in person, being right beside them. They all were very nice."
Meanwhile, Vitale added Weston Hermann as one of his All Courageous Kids in his annual gala.
The admiration was mutual.
"He is so caring and so cool about everything," Weston Hermann said about Vitale. "All these kids he is helping are not his kids, but he treats them like they are."
A cure would help Weston Hermann in his quest to play college hockey or even at a higher level. The dream, of course, is the NHL.
His father would like to see better drugs or a cure so he gets a fair shot at that opportunity.
"To watch your son go through this is a nightmare," Jared Hermann said. "This is four times now. He is the strongest kid I've ever seen."