SAN DIEGO – St. Nick Benjamin has the loudest voice at FC Golden State North County games.
“It is who I am,” said Benjamin, director of the Carlsbad-based youth soccer program. “This is what made me the person I am today. Just knowing and letting people know no matter what, I’ll always be there for them.”
Behind the scenes, Benjamin is going through one of the biggest battles of his life. Nine months ago, he sought medical care after feeling a bump on his face, initially hearing that it was a clogged salivary gland.
But in January, he was diagnosed with two rare forms of cancer: a high-grade neuroendocrine tumor on his face and Merkel cell carcinoma.
“It was just a lot of confusion, lost, overwhelmed,” Benjamin said.
On Tuesday, he had his first surgery at the UC San Diego Medical Center in Hillcrest to remove two lymph nodes on his neck. His family says he’s doing well and that doctors now have a better idea on his treatment plan.
When news broke about his situation, Benjamin’s friends immediately wanted to help however they could. His best friend, Oscar Tejeda, started a GoFundMe campaign for his medical costs last week.
As of Tuesday, the campaign already has raised more than $86,000.
His neighbor, Kelly Lawson, also started handing out red ribbons in a show of support for the father of four.
“We wanted to find just some extra gesture and put all the good out in the world that we could for him and red’s his favorite color,” Lawson said.
Benjamin has quite the army behind him, with support coming in left and right.
“He keeps a smile on every single one of our faces everyday,” said Gianna Higgins, one of his three ‘bonus kids’ along with Alina and Carmelo as well as his daughter, Luna. “There’s never a moment where he’s not making someone laugh.”
“Like I said to him, I’ll do anything,” Benjamin’s partner Christina said. “You just worry about you getting healthy and I’ll take care of everything else.”