Keep Moving Forward is the story of Nick Pantalone and his fight with cancer. The book is available on Amazon and proceeds go to The Four Diamonds Fund, a foundation that assists families dealing with childhood cancers. Vince Pantalone was Nick’s father and the book’s narrator. He has spent the last thirty-five years teaching and coaching in Central Pennsylvania.
Curtis Smith: Congratulations on Keep Moving Forward. The book’s origins are rooted in heartache, but as I look over the reviews on Amazon, I’m taken back by the kind words and statements of thanks. That must be rewarding.
Vince Pantalone: It is rewarding that those who read the book get a glimpse into the special kind of person Nick was. Our family always knew that Nick had a uniqueness to him, but when he began his battle with cancer, this inner force of strength emerged from within him. His blogs illustrate this inner force.
CS: The book has a unique structure—your son Nick kept a blog during his cancer treatments, a three-year journey of incredible ups and downs—and you took the blog and added your own voice as you looked back on his fight. It’s a structure that provides a real depth of both voice and perspective. Did this format come to you at the project’s beginning? Or did it dawn on you as you were going back through the blog posts?
VP: Actually, it was my family who suggested we publish Nick’s blogs in hopes that others with similar battles would find hope. I added my perspective to “fill in the gaps” between Nick’s blogs, to let the reader know what had transpired between the journal entries.
CS: You kept up with Nick’s blog as he was writing it—but how different was it to return to it after his passing? Did you see/realize things about him and the times you hadn’t before?
VP: Of course the biggest difference in returning to his journals was that we knew how it ended. But, as he wrote the blogs during his battle, we were amazed by his insights into life, his depth of thinking and his skill as a writer. Nick began his blogs when he was sixteen. His wisdom was beyond his years!
CS: Can you tell us a bit about the blog’s history and Nick’s motivation for starting it? He was quite dedicated to keeping it going, even when he was ill. As the years of his fight went on, did the blog change in meaning for him? In what ways was his writing a reflection of the young man you knew?
VP: When Nick was diagnosed with cancer, there was a great outpouring of support, prayer and caring from our wide community. People wanted to know “how Nick was doing.” Our daughter, Rachel, suggested to Nick that he keep a blog of his battle, so that people who cared about his progress could check on him when they wanted. They could check on Nick without calling the house or sending e-mails. The blog was an instant success, and we were amazed at the number of people who checked in on his progress.
CS: Nick was very public about his illness. Through your family’s involvement with The Four Diamonds Fund, he spoke often to large groups with an inspiring sense of both humor and strength. Can you tell us about Four Diamonds’ mission and then take us back to Nick and your family’s decision to lead such an active role in their support?
VP: As Nick was being treated in the Children’s Hospital at the Hershey Medical Center, we learned that we had become a “Four Diamonds Family.” Hospital bills that were not paid for by our insurance, were paid by the “Four Diamonds.” They were with us the entire journey.
In 2011, Nick was asked to speak to 16,000 people at the Bryce Jordan Center during Thon weekend. His speech was amazing. (You can see it on YouTube– https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQp1VRKvP5Y) In that speech, our family saw our son blossom into a recognizable public figure for the Four Diamonds. Whenever asked, he or I would speak for the Four Diamonds. It’s the least we could do.
Portions of the proceeds of the sale of the book will go to the Four Diamonds.
CS: When a project is done, especially a book, it’s like sending a message in a bottle out to the world. One never knows what will become of it, who will read it and who it will touch. What are your hopes for the book in these terms?
VP: If one person reads Nick’s journal and is inspired to fight his own battle, then the book was worth it. Nick’s theme throughout his battle was taken from the Pixar movie, Wall*e: “I don’t want to survive; I want to live.” Cancer never defined Nick. He would not let it dictate what he could or could not do. Even though he passed at the age of nineteen, Nick lived!
If someone is interested in reading Nick’s book, go to Amazon Kindle and type in, “Nick Pantalone, cancer.” Here’s the link.