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THON Dancer Builds Better Memories

At this point, it is beyond clichéd to say that THON unites all of Penn State behind a common cause–the fight towards the eradication of childhood cancer.

But for some involved with THON, the charity and the event take on a greater meaning. Count dancer Eric Clair amongst those who have a personal connection with pediatric cancer.

“When he was 9 months old, Eric was diagnosed with cancer,” his mother, Cindy, explains.

Though Eric can’t remember much of the ordeal–from the neuroblastoma tumor pushing on a nerve that forced his left eye closed to the countless misdiagnoses, from the seven rounds of chemotherapy to the eventual receipt of a clean bill of health, there is one memory, or series of memories, from his childhood that stands out.

“Doctor visits,” Eric says. “I remember being in the hospital all the way through my teens.”

Indeed, the pronouncement of Eric as “healthy” didn’t come without some caveats. The monthly and yearly visits to so many specialists he can barely recount them all marred his childhood, even though Eric’s been officially cancer free for the past 18 years.

But all these years later, at 21 years old and on the verge of graduation, Eric now has the ability to help other children who find themselves in the position he was in as an infant.

“I can’t say THON matters more to me than it does to the other dancers, because everyone has their reasons for getting involved,” Eric said. “But for me, it’s personal.”

To help prepare for THON, Eric received a special gift from his mom.

“I sent him pictures from when he was a kid, when he was bald from the chemo,” Cindy said, “So he can see the difference from then to now.”

And those pictures couldn’t have inspired Eric more.

“I was a little nervous before THON, the same nervousness everyone has,” Eric explained. “But when I saw that picture, I really took it to heart.”

“If I could get through that, I knew I’d be able to make it through THON.”

For Eric’s Moraler, Stephanie Keiser, Eric’s victory over cancer was a surprise held until Friday.

“He told me at the beginning of THON,” Stephanie said. “I didn’t know before I got here.”

But that revelation was a positive one for the Moraler.

“It’s an especially cool experience, knowing how much it means to Eric,” she said. “I can support him in a different manner than I normally would.”

Eric described his battle with cancer as “one of the hardest points in our lives, for me and my family,” but now that he’s come out clean on the other side, he looks back with a mixture of poignancy and optimism.

“There really are a lot of positives,” Eric said. “It’s brought me and my parents even closer together. And participation in THON has just been incredible, to share this with the kids.”

“Knowing that there’s a fixed outcome, I really think I’d go through it again.”

About the Author

Devon Edwards

Devon is a 2012 Penn State graduate and current law student at NYU. Devon joined Onward State in January of 2011, after a lengthy stay in the comment section. His likes include sabermetrics, squirrels, and longs walks on the beach, and his dislikes include spelunking, when you put your clothes in the dryer and they come out still kinda damp but also warm, and the religious right.


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