TAMPA — Weston Hermann was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of seven. His battle against the disease is nothing short of remarkable. He's had two brain surgeries, and the amount of time spent in chemotherapy treatments adds up to almost two and a half years. Weston, now 15, is a four-time brain cancer survivor.
A lifelong Tampa Bay Lightning fan, Weston had the opportunity to practice with the team and tour the locker room. He also got to drop the ceremonial first puck before the Bolts game against Anaheim on April 14.
"Words can’t describe it, so much fun," Weston beamed. "With everyone on their feet, just cheering, the whole community helping me go through everything. Which, thankfully, in remission now, so, doing good."
Weston's not letting cancer affect his hockey game. He led all freshman in goals while skating for the Manatee Admirals in the Lightning High School Hockey League.
"Definitely just stay determined. Focus on a goal. Go to that goal," Hermann said. "Being able to still play, going through everything. The fact that I was still on the ice, going through that. Makes me proud that I stuck with it and helps me where I am today."
Weston's father, Jared, admits there can be some nerve-racking times watching his son play a sport like hockey while fighting brain cancer. But he says he just wants to see Weston do what he loves.
"It really did help him get through these trying times and get something to focus in on besides chemotherapy and surgeries, and really just go out on the ice," Jared said. "It’s one hour where all it is is just playing hockey and having fun."
Other than the Lightning organization, Weston's had the support of Tampa Bay Area celebrities like WWE Superstar John Cena and basketball Hall of Famer Dick Vitale, a fellow cancer survivor.
"[Dick Vitale has been] reaching out every single week, asking how I’m doing, going through chemo and everything. To see him have to go through what he had to go through after helping everyone, it's great seeing him ring the bell."
The Hermanns teamed up with Heroes 4 Causes and the American Cancer Society to raise money and awareness for pediatric cancer, and they did it in a unique way. They developed an inspirational, action-packed comic book titled "Center Ice." The title character plays center and wears the #22 on his sweater, just like Weston.
"I feel like it can encourage others to go through what they’re going through," Weston said. "Obviously I don’t have the worst of it. There’s definitely much worse stuff out there. Hopefully they can stay determined, get through it."
"We’re just trying to help others to raise awareness because only 4% of all federal funds go to pediatric cancer," Jared added. "We really need new therapies that are specifically designed for kids."
Weston says he doesn't like to brag about his story, but he's earned the right to do a little bragging because it'll help others fight- a lot.
"So I guess if my story inspires others, I’d love to encourage that."
Weston's been stable for about six months. His only current health concern is hockey-related. He broke his ankle, and the doctor told him he could be out of action for up to six months. Weston joked that it's going to be more like two months. Given his track record for beating the odds, it's not wise to bet against him.