Now the Apex teenager is facing his second life-threatening bout with cancer in a three-year span.
It was in July that Mervin, 18, began experiencing a frighteningly familiar pain in his back. Three years earlier, Mervin suffered from a similar pain while practicing for the Apex High School jayvee football team. A MRI revealed a mass in his back and he was diagnosed with cancer of the spine.
After enjoying more than two years of remission, it seemed that Mervin had defeated the disease. But when the pain returned it was discovered that he was afflicted with acute myeloid leukemia.
Now, friends and family are doing all they can to help the Mervin family during this difficult time. Led by close family friend Vicki Lavender, the group known as “Aaron’s Army” is seeking donations as well as raising awareness about the disease.
“We are trying to do whatever we can to make sure his family has the support they need,” said Lavender.
“I’ve known Aaron for 18 years. He doesn’t even call me by my first name. He calls me ‘mom.’
“He is doing well. He told me that he is battle proven and now he is war ready. He won the first battle and now he is ready for this war. So that is how we came up with Aaron’s Army.”
Lavender, an assistant customer service manager at Lowe’s Food on Hwy. 55 in Apex, organized a fundraiser at the store several weeks ago.
The Apex community rallied to support the Mervin family but more help is needed.
During the first battle against cancer, Mervin was treated at UNC hospital in Chapel Hill. The total cost amounted to about $1 million.
This time around, Mervin will need to spend several months at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN. His mother, Della, will stay with him in Tennessee.
“It’s tough on his mom,” said Lavender. “She has two other sons younger than Aaron. She has pretty much lived with him at UNC since July and now she is at St. Jude’s.”
A new recruit to Aaron’s Army is Sparks Wings and Ribs owner Kyle Stembridge.
Although he already held “Aaron Mervin Day” at his restaurant a few weeks ago, Stembridge is eager to do more.
“I’m willing to do whatever I can with the resources I have to win this battle,” said Stembridge.
He also hopes someone with a lot more resources at their disposal will lend some support.
“We are hoping to get the information out to the public and catch us a big fish,” said Stembridge. “Maybe (SAS co-founder) Mr. (Jim) Goodnight will pick up the paper and that gets the ball rolling for what we are trying to achieve for Aaron.”
But even people who can’t afford monetary donations, said Stembridge, can still help in a spiritual way. “This is a terrible disease,” said Stembridge. “Doctors have their techniques and they tell you what you are facing without pulling the wool over your eyes.
“If you can’t help financially during these troubled times then just give us five seconds and talk to the man upstairs. Doctors will tell you their methods can only do so much. In the end, it’s mainly up to Aaron and God.”
Anyone wishing to make a donation can drop off a check made payable to Aaron Mervin at Sparks Wings and Ribs, 5490 Apex Peakway, Apex, NC 27502. For more information call Stembridge at 303-0074.