FORT WORTH — Four-year-old Micah Ahern had a surprise waiting for him on the TCU campus recently.
Talk about an early signing.
"This guy is not coming to school until the class of 2027, so he's 13 years away from his freshman year in college... but that tells you how talented he is," TCU baseball coach Jim Schlossnagle said.
After Micah signed his papers, he was joined by his new teammates for a photo op.
When asked how he felt about signing, Micah replied: "Good!"
"It's really overwhelming actually, and amazing," Micah’s mother Linda Ahern said. "This day, we'll always look back and have hope for him."
Micah's journey has not been easy. He was 15 months old and living overseas with his family when doctors discovered a massive tumor in his chest. The diagnosis was neuroblastoma.
The family returned to the States for him to have surgery. After a while, the family thought his struggles might be over.
"We took Micah back into the doctor for a routine checkup and the neuroblastoma cells had spread throughout his whole body," his mom said. "They were in every bone in his body; they were in his bone marrow; he had new tumors that had come up, and we were just completely overwhelmed again after he had been in remission for over two years."
Despite his health issues, Micah tries to be a normal four-year-old... but that's nearly impossible.
"As a parent, you never expect it's going to be your child," Linda Ahern said.
Micah has had five rounds of chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant, radiation, and now has started another round of chemotherapy.
"Tiny things like digging in the dirt outside... he cannot do that," Micah's mother said. "He just says it all the time: 'I just can't do that because I'm sick.'"
"I wish I wasn't sick," Micah added. "I don't want to be sick."
"He will always put a positive spin on it," Ahern said. "He always says that, 'I know soon, I'm not going to be sick anymore,' and, 'I can do that.'"
"Total shock is the best way I can describe it," said Maurice Ahern, Micah’s dad. "One time we were playing a video game and Micah was saying, 'Here Dad, you help me,' and I was helping him and I was doing well and he just looked at me and said, 'Dad, it's just a video game... don't give up. You can do it!'"
As simple as it sounds, those words — "don't give up" — sum up Micah's story.
"Never ever give up," Micah said.
Micah receives his medical treatment at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth. Dr Meaghan Granger has been overseeing his care, and says his cancer appears to be in remission again.
"Micah has been through some of the most intense therapy that person, a grownup or a child can go through, for sure," Dr. Granger said. "He's pulled through and he's done great and bounced back from everything. He's thrilled to be able to do normal kids things like baseball now."
"Every time we go to the doctor, Micah has to get a shot to access his central line, and we call that a 'pokey' because it's like a poke... and it hurts."
"I don't like 'pokey,' and I don't like having a very hard cough,” Micah said.
The youngster took advantage of an open invitation and joined the TCU baseball team for practice and a chance to work on his own skills.
He got instruction from Schlossnagle, and in the clubhouse, Micah was in charge of the remote.
Sponge Bob beat out SportsCenter.
"Science suggests that Micah has a 10 percent chance of survival," Linda Ahern said. "We feel really grateful that we've had almost five years with him. Some mothers and fathers never get that much time with their child. We feel really blessed that we've had that much time, and we hope we'll have a lot more."
"Many times a night, Micah will pray for himself, and he'll say something like, 'God please help Micah not to be sick anymore,' and 'Please help Micah to be better,' and 'Please help Micah not to have his cancer.'"
On this night in bed, his prayer ended this way:
"Please help Micah to feel better. Amen," he said with his eyes closed.
"Because of TCU and them reaching out Micah, not only does he get to enjoy doing something he likes, but as a father, I get to see him do that and be a part of it," Maurice Ahern said. "It makes a father so happy! I can't even express the joy to just be out there with him and see him live this kind of dream of his."