Vigil held for C.B.S. teen battling cancer

Andrew Robinson
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Hundreds pack small street Monday to support Riley Mercer

Louise Mercer and her husband Bernie Mercer, already understand the pain that comes with losing a child.
Speaking before a large crowd in front of her family’s home in Conception Bay South Monday night, Louise said her daughter Alex’s death in 2002 at the age of nine
following a 15-month battle with cancer was a devastating experience.

Hundreds of people gathered for a prayer vigil for 15-year-old Riley Mercer outside his family home in Conception Bay South Monday evening. Riley is battling cancer.
— Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram

Now, the Mercers are fearful for the life of their 15-year-old son Riley Mercer.

“I would always tell Riley, ‘You better not go before me,’” said his mother Monday night. “He would always laugh and say, ‘I won’t.’ Well Riley Mercer, I’m going to tell you one last time, you better not go before me.”

In January 2012, he was diagnosed with cancer. The diagnosis came shortly after doctors detected a brain tumour. According to family friend Rick Webber, Riley has since lost his vision and his ability to hear.

A prayer vigil for Riley was held in front of the Mercers’ home Monday night. Hundreds gathered and held up LED lights as performers sang hymns that filled the air of a cold November evening.

Louise Mercer, who became emotional at times as she shared words with the crowd, said Riley’s cancerous brain tumour has been particularly worrisome since February.

She said her family seemed complete following Riley’s birth in 1998, fives years after his sister was born.

“Alex was delighted with her little brother,” the mother said. “She chose his name. She loved him like he was her baby rather than her brother. Riley loved his big sister Alex just as much.”

Riley was three years old when Alex was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumour. Their mother said it was Riley who gave her the strength to continue with life following Alex’s death.

“We always talked about heaven and what sissy would be doing up there on this day,” she said. “I always assured him that sissy was in an awesome place and there was no way that she was scared or lonely.”

Louise Mercer said her family is now living in fear given the severity of her son’s illness, but she has remained committed to keeping her spirits up for the sake of Riley and her husband. She has written about her family’s latest battle with cancer online through a Facebook group called “Friends of Riley Mercer.” She said Monday that writing about it has been therapeutic for her.

Webber said at the beginning of Monday’s vigil that people need to pray for a miracle when it comes to Riley’s plight.

“Inside that window right now,” he said, pointing to the Mercer family’s home, “lies a young man whose character and determination goes far beyond his age.”

Webber said Riley still talks of eventually returning to school and one day watching the St. John’s IceCaps play hockey. As for Monday’s vigil, Webber remarked it was a small miracle in itself that so many people were there to support the family.

“You are the mechanism that has allowed them to cope throughout this ordeal.”

Twitter: @TeleAndrew


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Recent comments

  • Herb Morrison
    November 05, 2013 - 08:26

    Refreshing to open the Telegram on this particular morning and see this story which documents humans' ability to demonstrate selfless compassion toward people like Riley Mercer and his family. A nice departure from the steady diet of news stories which report incidents where crimes of violence, corruption, and intolerance are committed against either individuals or groups of people on a daily basis.

  • bob
    November 05, 2013 - 05:13

    As a parent of three children, who are the centre of our lives, I cannot even begin to imagine what these parents are going through! God bless you, the prayers of a province are being said for you.