When Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons showed up for the team's Tuesday shootaround, he was sporting a new look:
That's right — Parsons' carefully crafted coiffure is kaput, shaved all the way down to the stubble ahead of the Rockets' nationally televised Christmas game against the in-state rival San Antonio Spurs.
The close-shave change came about for a pretty amazing reason, according to Jenny Dial Creech of the Houston Chronicle:
Chandler Parsons sporting a buzz cut today. Was inspired to shave it off by a child he met the other day with stage 4 cancer.
— Jenny Dial Creech (@jennydialcreech) December 24, 2013
Parsons met a kid in cancer treatments. He was sad he didn't look like his friends/family so Parsons shaved his head to look like him. — Jenny Dial Creech (@jennydialcreech) December 24, 2013
The kid in question is Patrick Hobbs-DeClaire, age 10, who for more than a year has been locked in a battle with stage 4 neuroblastoma — a form of cancer that attacks the nervous system and is most common in young children — that's left him weakened, pale-skinned and bald. In a predictably great and heart-rending piece, Rockets.com's Jason Friedman has more:
Patrick has already undergone multiple rounds of chemotherapy in an effort to eradicate the tumors clinging to his spine and skull. He has endured searing physical pain in the form of sores that start in his mouth and weave their way through his body’s every orifice. And he has withstood the emotional torment of coming face-to-face with a disease that has left millions of victims in its wake. His family has been by his side and undoubtedly dealt with their own acute, daily suffering. But Patrick’s particular form of pain and anguish is his and his alone. This is his cross to bear. [...]
When the DeClaire family first discovered the mysterious cause of Patrick’s back pain last December, their collective devastation was incalculable. “When those words come out of the doctor’s mouth, it’s just incredible how the world crashes in on you,” recalls Patrick’s father, Christopher DeClaire. So in an effort to regain their equilibrium and provide a much-needed morale boost, they reached out to Rockets’ CEO Tad Brown to see if there might be some way a player or two could drop by the hospital for a brief visit. Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin immediately answered the bell. Since then James Harden and Dwight Howard have spent quality time with Patrick as well.
But it is Parsons who has formed the tightest bond with Patrick, with each providing the other something neither one could have possibly anticipated or foreseen. For Patrick, the hospital visits and in-game, personal gestures from his real life hero produce the kind of eager anticipation and ear-to-ear smiles that can be the nourishing lifeblood necessary for any person or family that finds themselves locked in a perpetual battle between hope and doubt, life and death. Parsons, meanwhile, has been exposed to a brand of heroism that strikingly transcends anything that can be found on a basketball court. He was so moved after visiting Patrick last week, in fact, that he decided to shave his own head as a sign of solidarity. Parsons' signature locks were shorn last night.
“The kid is so strong and so brave,” he says of Patrick. “Here I am going to see a podiatrist for an ingrown toenail and this kid is battling for his life. How he handles it is incredible. It’s similar to what we do: He tries to not look ahead and he tries to not look behind. He game plans for every single day and every day is a new day and a new challenge. He just tries to plan and do what he’s got to do for that day to survive.
“To go through what he’s going through and to be so positive, it’s an inspiration.”
This isn't the first time we've written about Parsons making a special effort to reach out to a young fan stricken with cancer, which is pretty sensational. We're sure that Patrick and his family appreciate the 25-year-old forward making such a public statement of solidarity with their son's fight, and we're willing to bet that hearing about the Houston swingman's developing relationship with the brave young patient will turn at least a few impartial observers into Rockets supporters come Wednesday night's game.
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