Doctors gave Nick only a few months to live, but that never stopped him from living a normal life. Nick Mathis became sick in March of 1985 with what his mother, Charlie Steward, thought was the flu. Nick went on to school that day, but when his mom called Emmanuel Christian School to check on her sick son, she was told he was pale and had an upset stomach.
She quickly took him to the Immediate Care Center and then they were sent to Children’s Hospital. Nick was immediately taken into a 10- to 12-hour surgery where a football sized tumor was removed. They also removed 75 percent of his liver. Charlie was told her son wouldn’t see his sixth birthday. Over the next year Nick and his mother traveled across the state from Dothan to Children’s for chemotherapy treatments. Charlie credits Dr. Walter Cain, Dr. Robert Castleberry and all of Nick’s nurses with his healthy recovery.
As a young boy, Nick enjoyed hunting with his younger brother Benjamin, playing t-ball and reading comic books. When Nick returned to school after his surgery he would joke with his friends about the scars on his abdomen and lower back. He remembers certain parts of his ordeal, especially the more painful ones, but he also remembers his mother being by his side the entire time.
Although Nick was held out of kindergarten for one year, he made the honor roll from elementary school through high school. In May of 1998, he graduated in the top 10 of his Houston County High School senior class. On the day of his graduation, Charlie mentioned, “Thirteen years ago, I was told he wouldn’t live; now he’s a normal teen-age boy, with a girlfriend and a job at Winn-Dixie.” Mathis also attended Wallace State Community College and he now resides with his wife and two beautiful girls in Dothan.
Charlie claims that there is a small plaque in her bedroom that reads, “God, teach me to laugh again, but never let me forget that I cried” has been a helpful reminder throughout the difficult years. During Nick’s stay at Children’s, Charlie often found herself residing at the Ronald McDonald House, which she believes was a great asset. Even though Nick’s ordeal has left behind a few scars, it has also left behind a closer family.