Fundraiser has special meaning to mom

Fruita woman trying to buy headstone by her late son’s fifth birthday

Lorena McCormack with a photo of her son Chayton who died from a brain tumor.

Lorena McCormack thought her healthy 3-year-old son possibly had an ear infection last spring when he started falling down for no reason and tilting his head to one side.

But the 30-year-old Fruita mother never could have known her son, Chayton Joseph Aragon, would soon be diagnosed with an aggressive, rare form of cancer. Chayton, who adored Spider-Man and watching over his younger brother, Hunter, died Dec. 4 after fighting the disease the best he knew how.

“He always said, ‘I love everybody,’ ” McCormack said, flipping through books filled with photos of her smiling boy who sported a head of red hair, green eyes, and freckles on his ruddy cheeks. “When he was a baby, I would watch him breathe when he slept. I thought maybe he would be some great football player or something.”

These days, McCormack goes to visit her son in a Fruita cemetery. However, without enough money to purchase a headstone, those visits are even sadder. McCormack, who works two bartending jobs while caring for her other son, hopes to raise enough money by Chayton’s fifth birthday, May 19, to formally mark his grave.

McCormack has already chosen a black headstone with a butterfly and a crescent moon shape on the back. Black was Chayton’s favorite color, and it reminds her of the starry night skies she saw driving to and from Denver’s Children’s Hospital while Chayton underwent chemotherapy. He loved butterflies.

McCormack is about $1,000 short of her goal. Snyder-Grand Valley Memorials reduced the price of a $3,900 stone marker to $2,900; and others have donated about $1,900.

“I think it would be beautiful to have his stone on his birthday,” McCormack said. “Just a balloon would make him happy.”

Even as radiation treatments ravaged his young body, Chayton only wanted to console his mother.

He was diagnosed April 11 last year with brain stem glioma, an aggressive tumor in his brain that quickly fused to the brain stem. The condition is difficult to treat, and doctors initially gave Chayton a weekend to live. With treatment, Chayton lived for about eight months, though he slowly lost mobility.

McCormack said she knew the cancer was winning when Chayton one day said he was too sick to even color. He died at Children’s Hospital in his mother’s arms and surrounded by his family.

“It cripples you to your soul. Half of you is gone, and half of you is here for your other baby,” McCormack said of her loss.

Since her son’s death, McCormack has been writing poetry and offering other parents tools for handling their grief. She one day wants to go to school to become a flight attendant and travel, and she wants to help other parents cope with the grief of losing their children to cancer.

“If it helps one more person, it honors Chayton,” she said.


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