Updated 12:30 p.m. Aug. 28: Visitation and funeral services for Eric McLean will be held this weekend in Two Rivers, according to his obituary posted on Legacy.com.
Funeral services will be held at 11:00 a.m. Sept. 1, at St. Peter the Fisherman Catholic Church, 3218 Tannery Road, Two Rivers. Visitation will be held from 3 to 8 p.m. Aug. 31 and from 8 until 10:45 a.m. Sept. 1, also at the church.
Since McLean's passing, a number of people have offered their condolences and support to his family and friends by reaching out on the L.I.F.E. Facebook page, posting photos of groups wearing orange shirts in McLean's memory, and holding orange balloons with messages such as, "Have a great life in heaven, Eric." Orange is the color that represents the L.I.F.E. nonprofit created by McLean and his family to support cancer research.
Updated 8:47 p.m. Aug. 23: Eric McLean passed away at 6:04 p.m. Thursday, according to a post on the L.I.F.E. website, dedicated to the foundation in his honor.
"Rest well Eric, you were a great man, we will miss you so much," the post read. It was also his brother's 30th birthday.
Original story: "I'm going to miss everyone, my family ... my brothers and my sister, and my parents. My wife, Cari. I love you so much, babe. I love you so much. I tried so hard, fought so hard — but the fight is over."
These are the emotional words of 28-year-old Eric McLean of Port Washington in a YouTube video posted on Tuesday saying goodbye to family and the world after learning his cancer is back — and there's nothing else that can be done.
Eric, who purchased a home in Port last fall with his wife, Cari, has battled cancer for just less than 10 years, he said in the video.
"We got some really bad news last week, and there's nothing we can do," he said in the video. "Ninety-six percent of my cerebral nervous system is cancerous, and my sciatic nerve right now is being crushed by cancer so badly that I am in some of the worst pain you can imagine."
"I've fought a long time, almost 10 years now, I've been doing this. And this is it ... this is it."
Eric's parents still live in Two Rivers, where he grew up — and where he has started hospice care since posting the final video.
Many of Eric's family members and friends have visited the home in Two Rivers since the bad news came last week. His brother, Mike, said the family is doing their best to keep Eric's life comfortable.
"For a couple of days last week, he was fairly unresponsive, but that kind of changed last Friday — he was able to sit up and talk … he's still there, very mentally with it," Mike said. Eric hasn't been able to eat for about a week and has struggled to take in fluids, but Mike said the biggest obstacle has been pain management.
Because the cancer relapse is in his central nervous system, there is a lot of extra pressure being put on his nerves as an overwhelming number of cells reproduce there, "and that pressure is translated as very intense pain," Mike said.
A struggle caught on video
Eric has been video blogging his battle with cancer for about three years, a series that he catalogued on his YouTube page. The videos include a total of 41 confessions, speeches, updates about his treatments and a chronicling of his "bucket list."
Part of that bucket list landed him "The Ultimate Miller Park Experience," as he called it in his series. McLean can be seen speaking to Ryan Braun, touring Miller Park locker rooms and throwing the opening pitch. Other items on his bucket list included a ride in a hot air balloon, a trip to Las Vegas, driving a Dodge Viper and skydiving.
His first confessional post is dated June 24, 2009. In it, Eric mentions he's gotten some bad news, and talks about several options for treatments.
"Today's been a bad day," McLean said in that post. "I didn't really get any good news from anyone — any doctors that I talked to in the last few days ... and, I'm not doing too good. I'm trying to stay positive through all this."
In some videos, he appears with his wife, and an entire series focuses on a stem cell transplant process that he went through in fall 2011.
Since starting this YouTube page in 2009, a total of 108 videos appeared before his final confession on Tuesday. That video has garnered almost 800,000 views.
"The support has been overwhelming," said Mary McLean, Eric's mom. "I don't even know how to put into words how appreciative we all are to family, friends … to strangers near and far — there's people that we don’t know, that we have never met — and they’ve just been amazing. It makes you want to continue giving and pay it forward, and we will through our L.I.F.E. site."
L.I.F.E. is a nonprofit organization started by the McLean family that focuses on raising money for cancer patients in need and research in hopes of finding a cure and raising awareness.
Mike, Eric's brother, signed up to compete in an Ironman competition in 2003, when Eric was first diagnosed with acute myelogenous, according to the L.I.F.E site. Eric's father, Brian, came up with the name, Leukemia Ironman Fundraiser for Eric (L.I.F.E.) and the organization has continued to raise funds.
"The one thing Eric has been really passionate about and it's on his bucket list — is that he wants people to donate blood and he wants people to (join the bone marrow match registry," Mary said. "He’s been saved three times by donations — there’s so many people that we have met who need a donor and we have not been able to find one."
The first two donations were from a brother and sister, Mary said. The third life-saving donation came from an anonymous donor in Europe.
Interested persons can donate to L.I.F.E. or follow the group on Facebook. Learn more about bone marrow donation by visiting the Be The Match National Bone Marrow Donation website.
A powerful message
Garth Mohr, a manager in the IT department at Harley-Davidson who hired Eric four years ago, said Eric was an excellent employee who "quickly fit in" at the company.
“He exemplified courage to the nth degree," Mohr said. "He has been really just an inspiration not only to my team but the entire organization. … He's a great employee."
Mohr said he first learned that Eric had struggled with cancer in January 2008. Eric was scheduled to start working that month, but relapsed — and finally joined the company that July. Eric had a number of relapses since, but Mohr said he remained dedicated to Harley — checking his e-mails while away, calling in for company calls and more.
Mary credited Harley Davidson as an excellent company, which she said has also been extremely supportive.
"Harley Davidson has been absolutely amazing. (The company's) heart is huge," Mary said. Coworkers have called to check in on Eric, and employees from around the world signed a banner so that Eric could see the widespread support.
The news of Tuesday's video wasn't easy on the people Eric worked with.
"We ended up splitting off into groups and watching (the video) because some folks … it’s pretty powerful, and some people wanted to have private time and … be able to really absorb the magnitude of that," Mohr said.