MOORESVILLE, NC (WBTV) - There have never been any hard and fast rules on what makes a "Mo's Hero". I've just asked you to suggest people who are making a difference by passing on positive life lessons.
That is certainly the case for Geri Sherrill from Mooresville. She wanted to nominate her niece, 14-year-old Holly Diggs, as a Mo's Hero for how she's inspired others while fighting a battling a horrible condition. In researching Holly's story I stumbled upon a lot of heroes.
Geri wrote to me on Facebook and said Holly has been a rock of faith when most of us would crumble. Life has been tough on Holly, but Geri says, she's not one to feel sorry for herself. In fact Geri says the entire family are heroes to her!
Holly is the only child of Julie and Mark Diggs of Charlotte. Everything about their new baby seemed perfect until Julie noticed something on her baby's skin, "She started getting these little bumps on her arms. I took her to a dermatologist expecting them to come back and say it's nothing.
Instead I was told she has a very serious disease," Julie said. It was Neurofibromatosis Type 2, also known as NF2. According to Johns Hopkins' web site, NF2 causes benign tumors on the brain, spinal cord, and along nerve endings. It usually hits in teen years... but there are cases like Holly's where it starts to present early in life.
By 5 years old, when Holly had her first brain scan, doctors found lesions. Over the next five years there were countless MRIs as they watched the tumors closely. There was no growth. But at puberty the tumors took off.
No one would have known what was happening in Holly's life. She was making straight A's at Gaston Christian and aiming at her dream of becoming a cheerleader. Her mom tells me Holly was always showing those around her, "The true meaning of courage and faith. This is not a child who complained. She's been through so much and still holds strong and never asks, 'Why me?'"
That's why Geri Sherrill wants Holly to get a nod for being more than just a trooper…she's been a leader! As Neurofibromatosis Type 2 progressed the tumors forced surgeries and caused more obvious damage. By 12-years-old Holly had lost hearing in one ear. This May she lost hearing in her second ear. "But you would never have known it. This child was reading lips almost instantly! While we wanted to feel devastated, our faith in God, and this incredible spirited daughter of ours wouldn't let us!"
I asked Holly what it felt like to be thought of as a hero. She gave the credit to her attitude to her support system, "Always first is God, because He has promised that he would be with me until the end of time. My family is also always there for me. I have great friends that are always ready to listen if I need to talk," she said. "I have a sign hanging in my room that reads, 'Tough times don't last, tough people do!' I find a lot of comfort in that quote!"
I mentioned all the heroes I found learning about Holly. The cheerleading squad at Gaston Christian is filled with heroes! It had always been Holly's dream to cheer, and the squad accepted her. Even after Holly had lost her hearing! They worked hard to make sure she could be a part of the team! "Being able to cheer was definitely a dream come true. I got a uniform and got treated just like all the other girls."
Holly's mom Julie points out how amazing the cheer squad was, "When they would do chants on the bleachers, another student would tell Holly which one they were doing. When she was out on the floor doing a cheer, her coach would prompt Holly when to start the cheer."
To those who have touched her and clearly those she inspires, being a hero can sometimes be as simple as encouraging words, making someone feel included, or accepting a person exactly how they are.
Julie says none of Holly's achievements or her attitude would be possible without their faith. "We depend on God, not man. She understands her life is in God's hands," Julie said.
I'll let Geri Sherrill's note to me about Holly close out this blog. "Holly has been through so many surgeries but her faith never fails. She is an amazing child with such maturity that she inspires every one she comes in contact with…her entire family will just amaze you."