Jace Ward lived by the phrase “I can’t die, I’m busy.”
His fight against a rare form of brain cancer earned him a large platform to spread awareness about his condition — Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma. DIPG is a particularly deadly form of brain cancer typically found in children, but equally as lethal to young adults like him.
After fighting it for nearly 25 months and undergoing groundbreaking trials to treat the cancer, Ward passed away on Saturday. He was 22.
“I gave God my boy tonight,” his father, Robert Ward, wrote on Facebook. “Jace Ward died at 11:22PM 7-3-21. I will miss him. I promised him, that his Mom and I will stay committed to fighting DIPG. Finding a cure and raising awareness. I love you buddy.”
In February, Jace and Robert boarded a private jet bound for Tampa to watch their Kansas City Chiefs compete in Super Bowl LV. Both were diehard Chiefs fans, and thanks to a friendship that Jace struck with CBS analyst Jay Feely, his story reached Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman, a former teammate of Feely’s.
Sherman decided to pay for Jace and his father to get the entire Super Bowl experience — the flight, a hotel, passes to the events outside the stadium, and, of course, the game.
“Being able to watch the Super Bowl with my father, especially after the long couple of years we’ve had, it’ll be something I’ll definitely never forget and something I’ll cherish forever,” Jace told Sports Spectrum ahead of the game.
This week, the Ward family has shared countless posts with memories of Jace, and those who have supported Jace along the way have offered their condolences and encouraging words to the family.
Many of the comments and social media posts refer to Jace as a “hero,” and commend him on his will to fight and bring awareness to his condition with such a positive and joyful attitude.
Even before he fully knew the reality of his situation, he was prepared to fight. Jace was in the hospital with his mother, Lisa Ward, and asked the doctor to deliver the news on the reality of the situation. The doctor hesitated before Lisa gave her approval.
“But before I nodded,” Lisa told Sports Spectrum, “Jace said, ‘Doctor, I’m not afraid to die. I’m afraid I won’t have enough time to make an impact.’ That’s truly how this began.”
Much of that positive, fighting spirit came from his faith in God, he told Sports Spectrum in February.
“I was reaching out for God because I felt like my time was coming very quickly,” Jace said. “I knew that I didn’t understand what God’s plan was, but I was comfortable with whatever that was. I knew that God had a plan for me. I don’t understand it. I don’t know what it is. I couldn’t imagine why He would want to end my life early, but I was in a state where I convinced myself not to question it.”
Feely sent out a series of tweets remembering his friend and commending him on his character.
“He knew he would die but instead of complaining and being mad at the world and mad at God, he faced his future with incredible courage, composure and faith,” Feely tweeted. “He testified before Congress to advocate for more research dollars for DIPG. He even allowed himself to be used as research.
“I enjoyed every moment I got to be around Jace or talk to him on the phone. He was incredibly positive and uplifting despite fighting for his life daily. I will miss you @JaceWard3.”
I enjoyed every moment I got to be around Jace or talk to him on the phone. He was incredibly positive and uplifting despite fighting for his life daily. I will miss you @JaceWard3
— Jay Feely (@jayfeely) July 4, 2021
Jace’s family wrote in his obituary that his motto, “I can’t die, I’m busy,” rings true now more than ever.
“His unique work to bring awareness cannot die, he implored us to all stay busy spreading awareness, helping the next families and funding research for DIPG,” the obituary reads. “He hoped one day, a child will hear you have DIPG, but don’t worry we know how to treat it. He would tell us often, push forward, enjoy the good times fully and just love people.”
Prior to his death, Jace’s family established a fund to raise money for DIPG research and awareness. It has raised more than $83,000 of its $1.2 million goal as of publishing time.
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