Andrew Mortimer was only 7 years old when he held his 3-year-old baby brother for the last time.
Brady had been a patient at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for just a few months when he passed away on August 4, 2012. In March of that year, doctors in Kansas removed a tumor in Brady’s brain. It was an atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor (ATRT), a rare form of brain cancer.
After the surgery, his family was told that Brady’s time was limited, to take him home and love him for the few weeks he had left. But Brady’s family wasn’t giving him up without a fight. He was referred to St. Jude where he was admitted for treatment.
Brady passed away five months after his initial diagnosis. But St. Jude gave Andrew and the rest of his family a gift — the gift of more time. More time to show their love, to make memories, to embrace their precious boy.
Five years ago, the family moved to Memphis after Brady and Andrew’s mom, Katy, accepted a job with ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude.
And for five years, Andrew and Katy have run the 5K race of the St. Jude Memphis Marathon, the largest single-day fundraising event for St. Jude.
“I have to give back, because of the memories St. Jude gave me before he passed away,” Andrew said. “I also wouldn’t want anybody else to go through what me and my family have gone through.”
Brady’s St. Jude journey
Brady was 2 years old when he began to complain about headaches and eye pain. Katy said she and their dad, Jason, were told it was a virus. Three months later, with Brady still in pain, she pushed for a CT scan, which showed the tumor in his brain.
He was rushed to a children’s hospital and underwent an eight-hour surgery to have the tumor removed.
They were referred to St. Jude and Brady was accepted into a treatment program.
The day he passed away, the brothers played.
“The hardest, hardest thing to do out of everything here at St. Jude was to wake up 7-year-old Andrew to let him know he had to say good-bye to his baby brother and his best friend,” Katy said.
Brady was gone, but Andrew didn’t forget the other kids with cancer
Weeks after Brady passed in 2012, Andrew was already working to honor his brother. A toy drive for the patients and siblings staying at the Target House, a long-term housing facility for patients and families, was his idea. He asked the former governor of his state to sign a proclamation in recognition of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
Now in college, Andrew is a member of the St. Jude Leadership Society, an organization for high school and college students who share a passion for leadership, service and community. And now that he’s 18, he wants to mentor the siblings of other St. Jude patients who have passed away.
Katy says that with each milestone, Andrew remembers where Brady would be — kindergarten, middle school, high school.
Brady’s passing changed Andrew, Katy said. He became a more loving, more caring, a more outgoing child.
“Andrew has made me so proud in so many different ways. I know that he has come a long way and nothing can stop him. He’s unstoppable,” Katy said. “I’m so proud to be his mom.”
So, when race day comes around this year, Team “Brady’s Bunch” will be there.
They run for Brady and for families like theirs, who get to spend more time with their children thanks to St. Jude. And they run to encourage others to support the research hospital’s lifesaving work against childhood cancer and other catastrophic illnesses.
Katy will be there, celebrating two sons — the one who inspired and the one who is still inspiring.
Although Brady didn’t make it, that "doesn’t mean there aren’t miracles walking out of there every single day,” Katy said.
That’s what keeps Andrew pushing.
It’s my motivation to not stop helping or working so St. Jude can continue its goal of saving lives.