Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

January 5, 2013

Courageous Fallsburg boy dies from cancer

FALLSBURG — A young Fallsburg boy who courageously fought a rare cancer for the past 19 months died from the disease on Thursday.

Xzaiver Witham was only 14. Before being diagnosed the summer after his sixth-grade year at Fallsburg Middle School, he was a happy-go-lucky student who could knock you down with his smile.

“The first thing I remember about him was his smile,” said Jamie Lester, the principal at Fallsburg Elementary and Middle School. “His mom came to enroll him and he absolutely lit up the entire room with his smile.”

Xzaiver maintained a positive attitude throughout his battle with cancer. He had not only the Fallsburg school community but most of eastern Kentucky rooting for him. His parents, Mike and Freedom Williamson, were told the cancer their son was diagnosed with was 1 in 300 million.

He was diagnosed in July 2011 with Ewings sarcoma, a rare bone cancer that is a genetic disposition from birth. There’s no warning, no way to know you have it until you have it.

The Fallsburg community rallied around the young man, and social media, especially Facebook, kept everyone informed on his status. He was feeling good on Christmas Day, but took a turn for the worse that night and never recovered.

Xzaiver was a member of Fallsburg’s eighth-grade class. The school has students from ages 4 through 14. He had been there since third grade. His sister is a fourth-grader at Fallsburg Elementary.

A water main break closed Lawrence County schools on Friday and Lester said “it was a blessing” given the situation. The schoolchildren grew close to Xzaiver throughout his illness, Lester said.

“I have to say, I’m thankful to be out today,” he said Friday. “Monday will be a whole lot better day than today would have been.”

Xzaiver died Thursday morning, but Lester said there was no announcement at school. School officials wanted parents to talk to their children about it.

“A couple of parents picked up their kids early,” he said. “They didn’t want their kids to hear it in the gym. With social media the way it is, it was all over the place.”

Lester said he called the house on Dec. 14 to speak with Xzaiver’s mother about her daughter and Xzaiver answered the phone.

“I talked to him for a few minutes. He was wrapping Christmas presents. He thanked us for stuff me and Stephanie (Jamie’s wife) had sent him. I’m thankful I got to talk to him.”

Lester said district counselors were in place Friday even though school was canceled. He said counselors will be there again Monday.

“We’ll talk to all of them first thing. After that it’s really business as usual,” he said. “Normalcy is imperative in this kind of situation. We won’t try to magnify anything that happened.”

Xzaiver’s parents have been appreciative of the support they’ve received from Fallsburg and beyond, Lester said.

“It’s pretty much all of eastern Kentucky. There’s hardly anyone that doesn’t know about him.”

There were several fundraisers, and shirts and bracelets sold to help the family defray enormous medical bills.

“The whole time they relied on prayer and relied on God,” Lester said of Xzaiver and his parents.

There are lessons to be learned from Xzaiver, Lester said.

“His willingness to allow others to share with him what is a very personal and private diagnosis will leave a positive and lasting legacy at Fallsburg Elementary. Xzaiver taught us to not be afraid of whatever tomorrow brings us. With the ever present support of his school family and friends, he leaves us better now than before. We will miss him.”

Visitation for Xzaiver continues at Fallsburg Tabernacle Church. The funeral will be at 1 p.m. Sunday at the church.

MARK MAYNARD can be reached at mmaynard@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2648.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • jeremymccombs.jpg Jeremy McComb enjoys Tri-State's limelight

    Jeremy McComb’s career has been a wild ride, especialy in the last week.
    The lead single from his latest album was released on iTunes last week and it was a huge success right from the start.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Festival to showcase new plays

    The ACTC New Play Festival will feature 10 student and faculty written plays (short scenes, monologues, ten-minutes, one acts) that will premiere at 8 p.m. April 25 and 26 and at 2:30 p.m. April 27 at J.B. Sowards Theater on campus.

    April 17, 2014

  • 0420mongol1.JPG A ride to remember

    Riding 50 miles a day is no big deal to Amy Whelan.

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • 0418melodies.jpg Melodies & Masterpieces returns Friday

    Anyone strolling through downtown Ashland at lunchtime Friday will have a chance to enjoy the artistry of one of the area’s most-respected guitarists as Chris Kitchen kicks off the return of the Melodies & Masterpieces series on Judd Plaza.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0418odell.jpg MSU professor appointed state geographer

    Dr. Gary O’Dell, a professor of physical geography at Morehead State University, was named state geographer in January.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bill to benefit AK Steel

    During the 11th hour of the General Assembly, a bill extending important sustainable incentives for AK Steel’s Ashland Works was pushed through for approval Tuesday night.
    House Bill 483 was created to extend the plant's incentives provided by the Kentucky Industrial Revitalization Act in 2004.

    April 16, 2014

  • Pathways begins autism services

    Pathways has extended its community outreach in a big way by providing services for families facing autism.
    Lena Harmon, central director for the company's Kentucky Impact Youth Council, said these services can save families the trouble of being added to long queue lines in Cincinnati and Louisville.
    Harmon said she has heard some families testify having to wait up to 12 months for appointments in faraway cities.

    April 16, 2014

  • Russell academic new dean at OUS

    Nicole Pennington chose a two-year community college degree track in 1991 because she wanted to enter the nursing work force with as little delay as possible.

    April 16, 2014

  • 1936 Indian lasting wedding gift

    When it came time to present his future wife with a symbol of his undying devotion, Virgil Erskine gave her a 1936 Indian motorcycle instead of a diamond ring.
    “I’ve always called it my wedding present. It’s my diamond ring,” said Charlene Erskine, explaining she and her husband were married at Sturgis, S.D., in 1983, found the antique Indian Sport Scout in 1984 and had it restored and on the road in 1985.

    April 16, 2014

  • Boyd Democrats take floor at Elks

    Boyd County Democrats met at the Elks Lodge for a matchup between candidates for two of the hottest primary races in Boyd County: sheriff and judge-executive.
    The candidates, sponsored by the Boyd County Democratic Women’s Club, each took to the podium to face the crowd Tuesday night and discuss the candidacy and platforms for the race that is still over a month away.

    April 15, 2014