Little Drummer Boy: Windsor kid who loves the skins will set his cancer aside and direct the philharmonic | MyWindsorNow.com

Little Drummer Boy: Windsor kid who loves the skins will set his cancer aside and direct the philharmonic

Dan England
dengland@greeleytribune.com

Ahmed Stipanovic talks of playing an instrument one day.

He loves music. It's his favorite subject. And he loves the trumpet, the instrument that looks as if it's made of gold, like the rare Mario toy he craves. Ahmed loves gold, and he loves horns, and he loves Mario. He plays all the games, and he knows Mario's story.

But right now he's leaning toward the drums, and you can't blame him. He's a kid, a second-grader at Range View Elementary School in Windsor, and what kid doesn't want to make a racket?

That's a goal for now. First, he has to get older, given that most students don't start playing until the sixth grade, and that will be a fight. But he can still be a musician, thanks to the Greeley Philharmonic Orchestra.

He will act as the philharmonic's special guest conductor for the last piece, selections from the music of the "Harry Potter" movies. Friday night's concert will be a rare chance to take his mind off the pain.

Ahmed has stage 4 cancer, the worst, and recently he was in a bad place, even with a promising prognosis, said his mother, Natalie. He was battling a bad reaction to the radiation. He was in the hospital for 16 days, with skin damage, infections and pneumonia, among other complications. Sometimes the only thing worse than the cancer is the cure.

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It's an aggressive treatment, with a goal to wipe it from his system, and the last evaluation showed that it's working, Natalie said. The tumor was still there, but it had shrunk, and though it initially spread to his leg bones and arms when he was diagnosed, there were no cancer cells in his bone marrow. Those are all good signs.

"It's just a very tough process," Natalie said. "They don't really tell you much about his overall prognosis."

In July, Ahmed had pain in his bowels when he went to the bathroom, and after eight visits, doctors still didn't think the condition was worth a scan because he had pain only when he went to the bathroom. One doctor told Natalie to get all the pee out. Meanwhile Ahmed screamed every time he went potty. After yet another visit to urgent care, the doctor there suggested she would have better luck in the emergency room. When she went, a doctor noticed a large, weird bump on his bottom, and an oncologist took a look at a scan and told Natalie and Robert, his father, that it was cancer. Natalie had fought hard for a scan for weeks, but that word still shocked her. Cancer? Stage 4? There were lots of tears that night.

"You feel like you've been hit by a car," she said.

Since then, they have enjoyed the good days and endured the hard ones by finding ways to laugh. Ahmed's played along by finding funny cat videos on YouTube and wearing different colored socks, like the pair he wore Wednesday while talking about Mario on the family room couch.

Ahmed loves school, and he found some comfort in an event a few months ago, when students surrounded him in a heart they made by linking hands around his wheelchair.

But he's also shy when he's not talking about his video games, Natalie said, and though he's excited, he may also be nervous about being a conductor.

"I don't know how he will feel about being in front of a lot of people," she said.

They all hope he can do it. He may not feel well enough. But he's been home for a few days, and he's feeling better after the latest nightmare with the radiation. Regardless, the Greeley philharmonic's gesture means a lot.

"He doesn't have to think about being sick all the time," she said.

Maybe one day, all this will be over, and he will play the drums behind a rock band, or maybe Rock Band with his fellow gamers, or even stand with the philharmonic one day, playing with his fellow musicians. He talks about that. But that's for the future, and the future is uncertain.

For now, on Friday, at least he'll get to lead them in a song.

— Staff writer Dan England is The Tribune's Features Editor. His column runs on Tuesday. If you have an idea for a column, call (970) 392-4418 or e-mail dengland@greeleytribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @ DanEngland.

To go

The Greeley Philharmonic Orchestra plays at 6 p.m. Friday at the Union Colony Civic Center, 701 10th Ave. in downtown Greeley. Ahmed Stipanovic will be the guest conductor on the last piece of the night. Call (970) 356-5000 or go to ucstars.com for tickets.

To donate to Ahmed’s family, go to http://www.gofundme.com/ahmed-s.