Around 4:30 this morning, Four Diamonds child Nick Pantalone lost his battle to Stage IV abdominal cancer. His parents wrote on his CaringBridge page that Nick “is in pain no more. He passed peacefully in his sleep with his family by his side.”
Just about everyone has some story about what a positive impact Nick had on their life — even Onward State got to interview him last year. I was planning on going into a long, flowing description of all the ways that Nick was an incredible person, from his sense of humor to his wisdom to his astoundingly good heart, but Penn State student and Nick’s close friend, Anna Ungar, said it better than I could:
I’ve been trying to find the right words to say, but there are no right words when another young person is taken by cancer. Nick was the single most amazing person I’ve ever had the privilege to be friends with. His positivity and warm smile were contagious, and he inspired countless people, some of whom he never even met. Nick completely changed my life in the best way possible. He didn’t let cancer define him, and even though I met him through THON, he was never my friend with cancer – he was just my friend. Cancer took Nick from us far too early, but it will never take away his memory, the inspiration he has given to so many people, or the love his family and friends will always hold in their hearts for him. Throughout his battle with cancer, he always made time for his friends and family, and never lost his positive attitude. Nick’s favorite movie was Meet the Robinsons, and he always told me, “Keep moving forward.” So we will keep moving forward for him, in hopes that one day we will find a cure and no other family will have to go through what Nick’s family is going through right now. Everyone please keep Nick’s family and friends in your thoughts and prayers. Nick fought hard until the very end, and now we will continue the fight for him.
Like Anna said, Nick was never “my friend with cancer.” That was never his identifier — he had too many others going for him. He was the valedictorian of his class at Cedar Cliff High School and performed in loads of musicals and plays there. He was a sophomore at Lebanon Valley College and served as ambassador to their Mini-THON committee (while chilling on the dean’s list and singing for the concert choir). And of course, he was a Ride Group Supervisor at Hershey Park, which he absolutely loved, given his passion for roller coasters and amusement parks. Nick was exceptional in so many ways, and he never let cancer take away from that. He never, ever let cancer define him.
Though there’s nothing that we can do to take away the pain that the Pantalone family is feeling after their loss, we can show them how Nick’s constant optimism and positivity inspired us all by joining the efforts of Anna in the Facebook event called “For Nick” that she created this afternoon. Through this event, Anna encourages anyone who has been inspired or affected by Nick’s death to make time this week to write a card or letter to his family telling them how Nick has affected your life. Cards will be collected in first floor HUB on Monday and Wednesday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., as well as 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday.
In one of the last conversations that I had with Nick, I was asking him how to console a friend of mine who had just been diagnosed with leukemia. His response was, “I think it’s important to tell him all the things that cancer cannot do. It can’t dampen his spirit. It can’t change his personality. It can’t change who he really is inside. I think by hearing that, he’ll hopefully overcome any fear he has and realize he can tackle it and win.”
Casually peppering conversations with inspirational quotes like this was a common phenomenon for Nick Pantalone, and his inspiration won’t end with his passing. Days like today remind us that we have to keep fighting. If you didn’t know Nick well enough to feel comfortable writing a letter to send to his family, please donate to The Four Diamonds Fund in his name to honor him.
If you didn’t get the chance to meet Nick, please watch the clip below to see a snippet of his hopeful spirit and inspirational personality.