BOONTON — Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon joined the town of Boonton community, fire and police department members Monday evening, June 8, in congratulating 9-year-old Nesim Aktas for courageously battling leukemia for nearly three years.
Nesim, who was diagnosed in late 2017 with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia, took his last liquid chemotherapy dose on June 8. His extended family, friends and other well-wishers were so happy he won his fight that they gathered briefly at Nesim’s home on Kanouse Street in Boonton, with masks in place.
Family and friends wore Team Nesim shirts. A cake bore the message “I’m a Survivor.” A sign on the lawn declared “WooHoo, Nesim Beat Cancer,” and a car was covered with a banner that proclaimed “Cancer is tough but Nesim is tougher.”
A motorcade that included Morris County Sheriff’s Office Motor Unit Corporals Pete Lohmus and Brian Ahern, Sheriff’s Office Detective Sergeant David Kenny, two Boonton Fire Department trucks and supporters conducted a drive-by procession past the Aktas home, and Boonton Fire Chief David Kaplan got out of a fire truck to give Nesim the honor of ringing its fire bell.
Sheriff Gannon, whose hometown is Boonton, presented Nesim with a certificate of courage for his momentous accomplishment and “completing the prescribed course of therapy with the highest degree of courage, determination and good nature.”
Sheriff Gannon personally congratulated the boy, who was hugged repeatedly by friends as he milled around. Nesim’s younger brother, Zeki, also was part of the joyful ceremony.
“We’re all here because of your courage,” Sheriff Gannon told Nesim. “You had a rough run going. You had a lot going on. But you know something? You taught us all a good lesson. Never give up. You had a lot of courage. You faced a lot of tough times. We’re real proud of you.”
Nesim’s parents, Selma and John Aktas, thanked their family and the town, which they said was completely supportive. When Nesim was diagnosed in the first grade, he missed school but a first-grade teacher gave up her lunch hour to tutor him at home.
“The community has been beyond amazing,” Mr. Aktas said. “From the board of education, to hospitals, to my job. Luckily, all we had to do was focus on making him feel good. They say it takes a village, and we’ve had an amazing support system.”
Nesim fought through spinal taps and heavy doses of chemotherapy through a port and took his last dose of oral chemotherapy Monday.
“We love you all and we’re there for you,” Mrs. Aktas told the well-wishers.
Boonton Patrolman Anthony Cosentino, a Fire Department Battalion Chief, had a large role in organizing the tribute. Boonton Police Chief David Mayhood, Boonton Fire Chief David Kaplan, former Fire Chief Jack Steinhauser, and even Joann Spera, an education liaison at the Goryeb Children’s Hospital in Morristown where Nesim was treated, were at the celebration.
“He’s adorable and his family is great,” said Ms. Spera.
Boonton Deputy Fire Chief Eric Joinson called it an honor to participate in the event.
“This is something very special to do, for children especially. It’s really an honor to do this for them,” he said.