FRAZEE, Minn. — Vincent Helmers, a recent graduate of Frazee High School, is known to his friends and classmates as a standout football player, a state contender in shot and discus and an all-around good person.
"He's a big teddy bear, that's what I would call him. He always wants to joke around," said his football and throwing coach Russ Hackel.
But about a week before graduation and a chance at the state track and field tournament, things changed for Helmers.
"I was getting a lot of headaches during practice and I couldn't really throw, it was bugging me too much," he explained.
The headaches led to an emergency room visit, which led to a brain scan.
Then doctors found a brain tumor.
The cancer was far from ordinary, and Helmers has gone through more than most 18 year olds. During one of his nine surgeries, Helmers was in an induced coma for a week and a half, on a breathing and feeding tube while going through chemotherapy. All the while, doctors tried to regulate his blood pressure because both ventricles in his brain collapsed.
"He's teaching us a lot of lessons. He's taught us a lot and you know he's always fighting through and I don't think everyone can handle what he's gone through," Hackel said.
Doctors told Helmers he would need a miracle, but he already had two right by his side — his parents.
"They push me until I can't go anymore," Helmers said.
Helmers knew he couldn't do this alone, so he asked his parents to push him.
With their help, in just over three months Helmers went from not being able to open his eyes to being able to pick up a 45-pound weight.
Helmers has a message for the parents who never left his side: "You guys are my world, you really are."
And through Helmers' journey, an organization was born.
The Helmers family learned firsthand exactly how expensive treatment can be, so they started the "Stand By Me Foundation." Its goal is to provide financial support for parents and guardians of children with cancer.
Often, when you think of cancer expenses, medical bills and travel costs come to mind, but Helmers' parents know that sometimes parents need to leave their jobs to be there for their kids and that means losing money.
"Parents don't want to leave their kids there and it's hard to financially be sustainable for families when you have to lose your job," said Vincent Helmers' mom, Kristin.