Our Founder’s Last Easter
It’s been 13 years since HEADstrong founder Nicholas “HEAD” Colleluori’s untimely passing to cancer and a plush turtle that sings “Love Machine” by The Miracles, given to him by his beloved Jordan during treatment, continues to play on its original batteries. Maybe it’s a sign from the heavens that Nicholas’ love for Jordan still carries on.
Nicholas met Jordan Costa in the fall of 1997, they were in 6th grade. The two passed each other in the hallway at Ridley Middle School on their way to class and sparks flew. Nick was an All-American type of kid and Jordan was an artistic, fashionista. Alike in many ways, they were the perfect counterbalance to each other. Their relationship was storybook-esque and had an innocence about it. “Nicholas cared unconditionally for Jordan’s well being. For their first Christmas together he purchased her a pair of prescription glasses as she had mentioned that she was having difficulty seeing the blackboard. They were just 12 years old, he was always selfless.” said Cheryl Colleluori, Nick’s Mom.
Their relationship only grew stronger in high school. Those years were filled with many amazing moments and achievements. It was no surprise that they were selected “Cutest Couple” in their high school yearbook. As their senior year was winding down, Nicholas had announced that he was going to pursue his college education at Hofstra University, while Jordan accepted an opportunity at Philadelphia’s Temple University. The thought of leaving each other created a lot of anxiety. The first semester flew by and despite the distance between them, their relationship only blossomed. Spring brought the lacrosse season and soon it was summer. They both returned home. Nicholas became a summer camp counselor at the YMCA, Jordan worked for a local pizzeria and life as they once knew it had returned to normal. And while summer was filled with lots of great times, toward the end of the season, Nicholas began to develop allergy-like symptoms which were precursors of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. In September 2005, he was officially diagnosed with a terminal form of cancer just two weeks into his sophomore semester at Hofstra, he was 19 at the time. Life would never be the same. The uncertainty and severity of his cancer was the couple’s ultimate test.
Despite the aggressive nature of his diagnosis, Nicholas’ approach to his cancer was optimistic and encouraging. As to be expected, Jordan took his diagnosis incredibly hard, which bothered Nicholas, as he never wanted to be a source of pain to her. Throughout his battle, Nicholas often vocalized his concern for Jordan’s well being and wanted to ensure that despite his worsening condition that she was his priority. Their relationship was pushed to the brink, but it was in those moments that their unconditional love for one another was displayed. Jordan became a caregiver to her boyfriend. She accompanied him to appointments and treatment. When he was hospitalized she never left his side. She slept on a non-reclining chair and while hooked up to wires, she held Nicholas’ hand through most nights. As his cancer progressed, Jordan became fearful due to his declining healthy and physical demeanor. But despite his ailing health his devotion and love for his girlfriend and his family only grew stronger.
After months of unsuccessful treatment, oncologists informed Nicholas he needed an autologous stem-cell transplant, which would require extensive preliminary treatment and inpatient quarantining. An April date was selected for his transplant. One of the unfortunate but necessary realities of pursuing any cancer treatment is disclosure. And in full disclosure, he learned that there was a risk of death associated with the transplant. But facing limited options, he also realized that he had no other choice. His life flashed before his eyes and for the first time he thought about how his loved ones would continue on if “god-forbid” anything would happen as a result. It was at that moment that Nicholas made an important decision. Before risking his life through the transplant, he wanted Jordan to know how much she meant to him. Nicholas decided that he wanted to propose to Jordan. He wanted to encapsulate his love with a ring and assure her that their love was everlasting.
So he formulated the plan. He built the proposal around the Easter holiday, just a few days before he went into the hospital. He talked to her mother, went to a jeweler, picked out a beautiful ring, constructed an Easter Basket filled with her favorite candy, stuffed animal and hid the ring in an Easter egg. His parents hosted Easter dinner for both of their families and in a private moment Nicholas got down on one knee and asked Jordan to be his wife. Jordan accepted and the families celebrated.
It was a moment that Nicholas had always dreamed of, an answer that filled his heart and motivation to push through the fear of the transplant and storm of cancer that he was living.