7-year-old Noah Kabia, an aspiring drummer with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, now strives to beat cancer with community support.
Ever since Melanie Kabia was pregnant with her now 7-year-old son, Noah, she knew he'd have a musical life ahead of him.
"He was drumming in my stomach," she said. "[He was] never letting me sleep."
When he was little, Noah would arrange toys in his room like a drum set, she said.
A video on her phone has Noah, at 3, playing on a drum set at a music school. When she was asked how long he was taking lessons, she said he hadn't.
Noah says drumming is just his thing — he wants to be a drummer when he grows up — along with running and playing with Legos in his Lego-themed bedroom. In a room across the hall is his five-piece drum set, surrounded by a set of five cymbals.
His drum teacher, Chris McCabe, has given him lessons since Noah was 3.
"It's really cool to see his little mind wrap around these pretty intense concepts," McCabe said. "He wasn't even in kindergarten yet and he was doing what I call middle school math."
Earlier this year, however, there was a time when Melanie and Ray Kabia's little drummer boy went silent for a while.
The symptoms started in October, when he began to complain about leg pain while running. Later in the month, he complained about abdominal pain. More symptoms arrived in the coming months, and the Kabias were told, at the time, by doctors that it was growing pains.
Twelve-year-old Kevin Buck had plenty of distractions the night of March 7. Behind him were screaming college basketball fans, and in front of him was a shining court that he, as ballboy, was tasked with keeping clean. About once a month, Kevin and his family go out to an event set up by the Arbutus-based Casey Cares Foundation, which has the mission of providing "uplifting programs with a special touch."
It's tough to watch her son go through chemotherapy, Melanie Kabia said. Both she and Ray take time from their work schedules to make sure they're at the hospital.
At each treatment, they receive a gut-wrenching list of the drugs Noah will receive. But he handles the treatment well, his mother said. At times he can get grumpy, but he bounces back easily, she said.
"It's pretty hard," she said. "Nothing can prepare you to watch your child writhe in pain."
In terms of cancer, Noah had a few things on his side. His youth and the advancements in treatment over the years for the disease have given him a greater chance for a full recovery. Their proximity to Johns Hopkins gives Noah the ability to have treatment as an outpatient procedure and come home afterward.
This gives his family some optimism in a time of devastation.
"If you're going to hit get cancer, we hit the jackpot," she said.
Noah's school, Watson Hall Montessori School in Catonsville, has been a source of strength and encouragement for the Kabia family in recent months.
He has attended the school since he was 3.
The first thing the school community did was consider how to help the Kabia family, according to Kenda Watson, the school's co-owner and director of instruction. They began to raise money to help with parking at the hospital. Others donated meals.
In February, students and staff began wearing special T-shirts on Fridays to support Noah.
"We were just very scared for him," Watson said. "I was truly scared."
The red T-shirts — Noah's favorite color — were designed by his father. At the top of the shirt is the word "beat." At the bottom, the word "cancer." In the middle, a drawing of a boy playing drums.
"The drummer is me on the shirt," Noah said. "But that's not how many drums I have. I have many more."
The school is holding a 5K walk and run Saturday, May 21, for the Kabia family to help pay Noah's medical costs. The goal is to raise $2,500.
Originally, the 5K was to support the Montessori Kids on the Go running club, which Noah had joined. But the school decided to combine his loves for running and music together and hold a party.
"We're in Catonsville and we all work together," Watson said. "We have great teachers and people who want to help. We would never want this to happen to another child so we showed the kids how to support them."
An upbeat note
The beat begins to go on again for Noah.
As he resumes playing drums again, he's eager to learn more. He wants to be able to twirl drumsticks between his fingers and learn how to play a paradiddle, a basic drum pattern. He hopes to read sheet music.
To help Phil Davis, a Catonsville native and current resident of Hereford, and his wife and children, his sister and her family will host a fundraiser on Oct. 23 to raise money to support the family while Phil undergoes treatment for cancer.