Living the Dream


Imagine being diagnosed with incurable cancer in your late twenties and told you have weeks to live. Imagine learning that health issues prevent you and your wife from having a baby. Imagine wanting to take the vacation of your dreams and thinking it would never be in the cards.

Imagine again.

When Nick Haerther was diagnosed with stage four esophageal cancer three years ago, he experienced all those things. With one diagnosis, the door seemed to close on his dreams. But, fortunately for Nick, the door didn't slam shut.

With the right care and treatment, Nick’s living life as a stay-at-home dad, and his condition is stable. Ten months ago, he and his wife Erin welcomed baby Ember into their family, joining her two older sisters. Four months ago, Nick and Erin took the trip of a lifetime to Bellevue, Washington, where he was able to walk into the world of his favorite video game.

It was the trip of a lifetime, made possible by the Dream Foundation. We asked Nick to tell us more about the experience.

How did you learn about the Dream Foundation?

Becki Tinder brought the Foundation to my attention. She shared the information with me and asked if I wanted to pursue it. To apply, I had to write a one-page paper explaining my dream and what it means to me. A few weeks later, they got back to me and said that things were already in the works. It all moved quickly!

Why did you choose this particular dream?

I’ve been playing a game called Destiny for about five years. It’s my biggest hobby. If you know about video games, you know that Destiny was the biggest new video game franchise launch in history. It’s made by a company called Bungie; they also created the Halo franchise, the Marathon Trilogy and the first two Myth games.

I was into playing Destiny before I got sick, but after my diagnosis, it became even more important to me. I can’t always do other things I used to do, but I can do this.

What happened when you got to experience your dream?

Erin and I got to check out Bungie’s studio, an old movie theater converted to a video game studio. It includes cinematics, a recording studio and all the graphics. We got to see all the rooms where the game is created. I’d seen the rooms in the videos, but it was amazing to see them up close and personal.

The Bungie team ordered food, and we got to eat lunch and hang out with the people who make Destiny. We also got to play the game with the people who created it. Part of the tour allowed us to see features under development and test early versions. We had to sign waivers because game development is very competitive, and security is tight.

Erin was there for the whole experience. We both loved seeing how things are done behind the scenes.

What else did you do in the Bellevue area?

We were able to spend a couple of days exploring. The Ghosh Center gave us a City Pass that provided access to many attractions, including the Space Needle and the Museum of Pop Culture. The museum has a lot of rock and roll exhibits and a fantasy section.

Erin and I also went to a Japanese market where they had live fish you could choose from. They had more seafood than we’d ever see in the Midwest.

You experienced a lot of firsts on this trip.

So many firsts. First time on an airplane, first time seeing the Pacific Ocean, first time in the Northwest. We hiked around the mountain areas and saw waterfalls. I was struck by all the trees that are different from the ones we have back home. With all the evergreens, it was a whole different landscape.

The Dream Foundation found a way to include your children. Tell us about that.

Before the trip began, two people from the Dream Foundation came to our house to meet our family. They had goodie bags with t-shirts, figurines, keychains, all kinds of fun stuff.

The Foundation also sent a bunch of toys for the girls. We were notified that we had a delivery at the Post Office. When we went to pick it up, we found a huge box decorated in all sorts of colors. We had no idea it was coming, and of course, the kids were ecstatic.

How are things going for you now?

We’ve been a bit housebound with the winter snow, but things are looking brighter there. The girls are looking forward to more outdoor time. Baby Ember is crawling everywhere, so she’ll be right behind them.

I visit The Ghosh Center every two weeks for treatment, and I’m feeling good.

You can learn more about Nick from this blog post: Uplifting Stories Are Everywhere.

You can also see him with his family in this video: More Life.

About Dream Foundation

The mission of Dream Foundation is to serve terminally ill adults and their families by providing end-of-life dreams that offer inspiration, comfort, and closure. With the support of a nationwide network of volunteers, hospices, healthcare organizations and committed donors, Dream Foundation has given life to more than 30,000 Dreams over the past two decades.To learn more or find out how to apply, go to the Dream Foundation website.