Michelle West
August 24, 2015 12:50 PM

Chris West loved every time his mother, Michelle West, went to the post office these past few weeks. After each trip, she would come home with several bins piled with birthday cards.

The 17-year-old sports fanatic from Concord, North Carolina, was diagnosed with stage four Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2011.

He had been in and out of the hospital since his diagnosis, but he always managed to give back to others while fighting his disease.

He once completed 100 random acts of kindness to celebrate a successful bone marrow transplant. He’s also collected and donated backpacks to oncology clinics for kids and started a group for siblings of cancer kids.

But last month, Chris finally asked for something for himself. His one request was for people to send him cards for his birthday on August 19.

“I like going to the mailbox. It’s just an exciting feeling and it makes me feel special,” Chris told PEOPLE in July.

A Final Wish

A few weeks ago, doctors told the West family that Chris probably didn’t have much time left. He had a second relapse, and this time, there wasn’t much hope.

On Saturday, the family sent an email to friends that said, “It is with extreme sadness and a heavy heart that we announce our handsome, intelligent and caring son passed away.

“Today he is finally free of the disease and the broken body that let him down. Heaven gained an amazing angel, and now he can have the best seats to every game.”

His mother tells PEOPLE that her son died feeling very loved.

More than 10,000 people sent birthday greetings to his home in North Carolina over the last few weeks.

Courtesy West Family

“It made his birthday very special,” Michelle says. “Chris wanted to make sure he was remembered for his kind heart and gestures and not as ‘the sick kid.’ ”

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