Elijah Mainville, a Soulsbyville boy who touched the lives of thousands of people through his six-year battle with cancer, died Sunday night at his home surrounded by family.
He was 9 years old.
“I was trying to clean up his medicine today and I just absolutely lost it,” said Elijah’s mother, Melody Mainville, 36, in a telephone interview Monday. “Even when you know the inevitable is coming, it hurts worse when it actually happens.”
Elijah was diagnosed at age 3 with high-risk neuroblastoma cancer, which is characterized by tumors that attack the nervous system.
After undergoing multiple rounds of chemotherapy that proved unsuccessful, Elijah and his family went to Seattle over the summer for an experimental T-Cell treatment that has shown promise in leukemia patients.
Melody Mainville said doctors informed her after about two months that the treatment wasn’t working and Elijah’s cancer was growing at about twice the rate.
Doctors at the time said they didn’t believe Elijah would make it to Christmas, so the family decided to stop the treatment and bring him home to be with family.
Despite the prognosis, Elijah was able to survive long enough to enjoy his favorite holiday one last time. He received presents that included a laptop and toys, including actions figures of his beloved WWE heroes.
At 10:15 p.m. Sunday, Melody Mainville said her son took his last breath. He had been under hospice care for the past week.
The loss has also been devastating on Elijah’s father, Ronnie Mainville, 39, and brother, Cayden, 11, who is autistic. Melody Mainville said they were worried about Cayden, but he’s been distracted with video games that help him cope.
“He has had the appropriate reactions, crying and upset,” Melody Mainville said of Cayden. “He’s really sad that his brother had to go.”
Some of the gifts Elijah received on Christmas came from followers of the family’s channel on Youtube, which has more than 37,000 subscribers.
The channel was also the way WWE became aware of Elijah’s condition in 2015, which Melody Mainville said changed all of their lives.
Elijah, a professional wrestling superfan, made an audition tape for one of the company’s reality TV programs and the family posted it on their Youtube.
Despite never sending the tape to producers, Melody Mainville later received an email from WWE saying they had a surprise for Elijah.
The company sponsored an all expenses paid trip for the family to attend a taping of the WWE’s weekly television series “Monday Night RAW” on Aug. 3, 2015, in San Jose, where they presented him with a contract to become an honorary WWE “Superstar.”
In between commercial breaks, Elijah signed the contract in the ring under his wrestling name, Drax Shadow, and bellowed his catchphrase into the microphone, “Don’t fear the darkness, fear the shadow!”
Videos of the event have been viewed millions of times across several Youtube channels.
“It changed all of our lives,” Melody Mainville said. “The way WWE instilled the hope for future in Elijah truly impacted him. I believe that it made him hold on for another year.”
Professional wrestling fans and stars took to social media on Monday to honor Elijah with the hashtags #RIPDraxShadow and #RIPElijahMainville. That’s in addition to more than 2,000 comments the family has received on an announcement posted at midnight to their Facebook page called “Elijah Kickin Neuroblastoma.”
Melody Mainville said she regularly receives messages from people telling them how Elijah and their family have inspired them, including some who have said the story prevented them from committing suicide.
“He’s actually impacted the world,” Melody Mainville said.
Melody Mainville said she has kept in contact with WWE star Stephanie McMahon and former WWE star Cody Rhodes, who was Elijah’s favorite when he wrestled under the name Stardust.
Rhodes tweeted Monday: “Thank-you Elijah. You taught me bravery,” with a picture of the two together. He has also since posted links to a GoFundMe page to raise money for funeral costs.
Melody Mainville said the family sacrificed “pretty much everything” over the years to pay for costs associated with Elijah’s treatments, much of which occurred at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford Medical Center in Palo Alto.
Their home was foreclosed on a couple of years ago and the family moved into a rental. To help pay the rent, Ronnie Mainville continued to work as an assembler while his wife took care of their son.
“It was always, always overwhelming and financially straining on us,” Melody Mainville said. “There’s so much involved in trying to get things to work, but we found ways to make it work.”
Melody Mainville said she will miss watching America’s Funniest Home Videos and laughing together with her son, as well as the family time on Monday nights spent watching wrestling.
The family is planning to hold a memorial but has yet to determine a date. Melody Mainville said she would announce the plans once the arrangements are made.
“We’re going to miss his laugh and his smiles and his voice,” she said.