Lexi Myers wanted to walk with Merrimack Valley High School’s graduating seniors. So she did

  • Merrimack Valley graduate Lexi Myers gets a hug after she was able to walk up to the podium to accept her diploma on Saturday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Merrimack Valley graduate Lexi Myers was able to walk up to the podium to accept her diploma on Saturday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Merrimack Valley graduate Lexi Myers was able to walk up to the podium to accept her diploma on Saturday, June 10, 2023. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Merrimack Valley graduate Lexi Myers was able to walk up to the podium to accept her diploma on Saturday, June 10, 2023. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 6/10/2023 4:15:12 PM

Lexi Myers, who suffers from a rare form of brain cancer, said she felt strong Saturday morning, about 45 minutes before Merrimack Valley High School’s graduation ceremony.

She had pushed herself the day before, on Friday, rising from her wheelchair during rehearsal and walking to the area behind the school where the diplomas would be awarded in a matter of hours. 

“I just had the energy so I figured why not?” said Myers, sitting  under the school’s front entrance canopy before Saturday’s ceremony.

And there, she did it again, this time with the bleachers bursting at the seams and a white picket fence surrounding the huge grassy expanse, every standing-room-only space claimed.

Myers’s pair of recent un-aided walks represented the longest she’s moved in a long time. She’s been fighting a rare form of brain cancer for seven years – setbacks and promise messing with her psyche the whole time – and only recently has gotten some encouraging news: The medication she’s been on for two months has made her feel better. 

“My tumors are shrinking, actually,” Myers said.

Enough, in fact, to join the class president and National Honor Society members and the top athletes as they moved from a sea of white folding chairs to a platform of handshakes and photographs.

“I am excited, yes,” Myers said under the canopy during a pre-graduation interview. “I can’t wait.”

Myers missed far too much high school to have earned a diploma. She was included in the ceremony, though, and hopes to work toward her GED one day.

Later, with the sun breaking through dark clouds, Myers and more than 170 graduating seniors were entertained by students like James Kelly, who read the student address, marveled at the power of the movie “The Graduate,” and wondered why “Texas freezes while Canada burns and (NFL quarterback) Aaron Rodgers is a (New York) Jet.” 

Teacher Nick MacGregor used boxing great Muhammad Ali’s words in a metaphorical manner, telling the students they’d need to rise from the canvas and continue fighting.

Myers was already good at that. As her close friend and wheelchair chauffer, Zay Darrah-Easter, said in an email, “I can tell you she’s incredibly resilient and she’s showed just how strong she is.”

She was diagnosed in grade school with pediatric ependymoma anaplastic. Tumors had grown in a small area near her brainstem and cerebellum.

She began daily trips, five days per week, to Boston for treatment. She still travels to Georgia once a month for checkups and wonders why she can’t have it done closer to home. For years, her life was affected in dark ways.

“It was a lot for me,” Myers said. “My taste changed. I don’t like stuff that I used to like. It was really hard.”

She underwent three surgeries. She’s taken a medicine-cabinet-sized worth of prescriptions in a process that is more trial and error than anything else. Her hopes soared with possibilities each time something new was introduced. 

She was more subdued this last time. 

“The past couple of (prescriptions) did not work,” Myers said, “so I didn’t have hopes for this one, but it ended up working.”

She still uses a wheelchair. Through high school, Darrah-Easter left her classes early to bring Myers to her next class.

The wheelchair was nudged aside, at least temporarily, the past few days. Myers had planned to walk to the podium on graduation day by herself, with Darrah-Easter standing close by if she needed help. That had been Friday’s plan during rehearsal as well. She moved slowly but surely.

“She let me know, ‘I want to walk,’ ” Darrah-Easter said. “I said, ‘Okay, I’ll wait here if you need any help.’ ”

Myers is petite, 4-foot-11, 90 pounds, which is only 10 pounds lower than her normal weight. Her head was shaved. She had a scar on the left side, and the glasses she wore dominated her small face. Her cap read, “Rock Star,” because that’s how her family sees her.

She spoke softly, but her message was clear.

“I feel pretty good,” Myers said. “I feel pretty strong. I have the energy today.”

Ray Duckler bio photo

Ray Duckler, our intrepid columnist, focuses on the Suncook Valley. He floats from topic to topic, searching for the humor or sadness or humanity in each subject. A native New Yorker, he loves the Yankees and Giants. The Red Sox and Patriots? Not so much.

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