WAMEGO, Kan. — A young man touched hearts during his trip to see the Kansas City Chiefs play in Super Bowl LV in Tampa. He made headlines after former Chiefs player Anthony Sherman gifted him the tickets.
Sadly, this past week, cancer took the 22-year-old’s life.
Jace Ward died over the weekend, but the fight he started against childhood brain cancer is far from over.
“His mantra, ‘I can’t die. I’m busy,’ doesn’t end with his death on earth,” his mom Lisa Ward said.
Jace prepared his family for this moment, which is just like him, they said — to think of others before himself.
“Everybody’s going to have to take time and relearn how to live life without Jace,” his sister Brooke Ward said, “because he made everybody feel full of life.”
More than two years ago, doctors diagnosed Jace with DIPG. It’s a highly aggressive brain tumor that’s hard to treat. Over time, he lost hearing in one ear, fought double vision and had trouble talking and walking.
“He said, ‘I’m not afraid of dying. I’m afraid of not being able to make an impact,'” Jace’s dad Roger Ward said. “Well I think he made a pretty good impact. I’m pretty proud of him.”
Jace was part of a cutting edge trial. Doctors believe, in total, it may have reduced his tumor by 65-70%. The latest round allowed him to walk 2-3 blocks instead of only steps.
“Sometimes, it makes us crazy because our son was completely healthy, except for something the size of a quarter, and that took his life,” Lisa said.
Jace never stopped moving forward. He even worked for Steve Jobs’ son.
“Just kind of a fierce warrior ready to tackle things,” Lisa said.
Chiefs players also took notice of his tenacity. Sherman, a former Chiefs fullback, gifted Jace with two tickets to Super Bowl LV — memories his dad will cherish forever.
“It was the most incredible gift that I’ve been given,” Roger said with tears in his eyes, “and I’ll never forget it.”
Locked in the memory vault, not because of the game, but because of the precious time they had together.
“I lost my son,” Roger said.
DIPG research benefitted tremendously through Jace’s advocacy. He’s responsible for helping to raise more than $5 million.
In his final two days on earth, Jace gathered 15 foundations and four corporate sponsors to fund a nurse practitioner for the trial.
“I’m just so proud that even in his DIPG work,” Lisa said, “his whole goal was to bring people together, to be ‘tough together,’ and I think that’s the legacy that we hope to continue for him.”