Young Patient Turns his Plight into a Mission

COLLIERVILLE, Tenn. — Trey Erwin, a tall, lanky Collierville High football player, recently tweeted: “Let it be all joy to you, my brothers, when you undergo tests of every sort – James 1:2.”

Facing a terminal illness is anything but joyful . But Trey, 15, who was diagnosed March 6 with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer , tells his family and doctors that he will be fine. A tiny ripple of community support in Collierville has spread across the county line, state boundaries and now even nationally. Many learned about Trey’s illness through Twitter and Facebook.

Memphis radio station KWNW-FM 101.9 became “Radio 101.9 TREY” on Tuesday morning when “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest announced a 13-hour marathon for Trey, whose football jersey is No. 13. Across town, WHBQ-FM 107.5 and Memphis firefighters held a bucket drive along Houston Levee and Poplar to help with medical expenses .

University of Memphis basketball coach Josh Pastner has called to offer support. Tigers player D.J. Stephens has visited.

“This thing grew legs. It started its own life for lack of a better word,” said Harold France of the Collierville High football booster club. “The community has really rallied around him. His spirit and his courage are just incredible.

“We are doing things to keep him up,” France said. But he says the tables are now turning. “He is keeping us up.”

“God does not select the weak people to do His work, He chooses the strong. That’s why Trey has been chosen and our family. That’s not to say there will not be rough, emotional days. We are human. But as Trey told the dr yesterday – I’ll either be healthy here, or healthy in heaven…”

Collierville High students and Memphis firefighters have sold thousands of T-shirts, plastic bracelets and yard signs with the simple message: “prayfortrey.” Teens have marked their windshields with the message as well.

Lisa, who works as a legal assistant, says she is amazed by the outpouring of support. It ranges from Germantown Baptist Church, where the family are members, to Collierville High, Houston High, the Memphis Fire Department and beyond.

Trey’s dad, Jay Erwin, is a paramedic with the Memphis Fire Department. Fellow paramedics are covering his shifts until at least June so he can be with his family and his son.

” We don’t want Jay at the fire station. His kid is my kid,” said Memphis firefighter Jeremie Herbert. ” That’s the way 1,800 firefighters in the city of Memphis feel.”

“Trey keeps saying – I’m gonna be fine. Whether I get sick and have to take medicine, I’ll sleep and be fine. If I’m in pain, I’ll take medicine and I’ll be fine. If they don’t find anything, I’ll be fine. If I don’t make it, I’ll (be) even better.’ I told him I now understand what he means when he says, ‘I’ll be fine Mom.’ What a son we have been blessed with.”

What started out as a stomach ache has turned into a type of cancer rarely seen in teens. It’s so rare that St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital doesn’t treat it because it’s an adult-type cancer. Trey received his first chemotherapy treatment Monday as an outpatient at the West Clinic in East Memphis. He is at home in Collierville now and receiving home health care.

Doctors have told Trey and his parents, Trey is a “15-year-old with a 60-year-old man’s disease.”

Throughout the ordeal, Lisa said she and Jay decided Trey and his younger brother, Collin, 12, needed to know the truth.

The news has sent the family on a gut-wrenching tailspin. Without treatment, doctors said he had three to five months to live. With treatment, he has 11 months. “At times, you want to crawl into a fetal position, and you know you can’t,” she said. “That’s not an option right now. We take it one day at a time.

“We are going to give him a better quality of life as long as we can,” she added. “It is our hope, he can heal.” Germantown Baptist student pastor Keith Cochran said the “prayfortrey” movement started long before anyone knew it was cancer.

“Trey has a strong faith. He’s a guy who loves Jesus. He wants people drawn to Jesus not just to the cancer,” Cochran said. Cochran said he was in the room when doctors told him about the cancer.

“At first he was quiet. His first words were ‘I’ll be fine either here or in heaven.’ That was a powerful statement of his faith. I don’t know if I could say that as a 41-year-old.”

Lisa believes there’s a bigger purpose in Trey’s illness. “It’s to get Trey’s story and testimony out there,” she said. “Trey is meant to be heard and to be known because of his strong character and strong faith.”

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