Sixteen-year-old Chris West has performed hundreds of selfless acts over the years, and now for the first time, he s asking for something for himself.
The three-time cancer patient, who regularly solicits donations for other kids, has a specific wish for his upcoming birthday: He s hoping strangers will send him birthday cards.
West, a sports fanatic from Concord, North Carolina, was just 12 years old when doctors diagnosed him with stage four Hodgkin s lymphoma in 2011. He s been in and out of the hospital ever since, but he manages to give back while fighting the 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.
His mom Michelle West tells PEOPLE, “He originally started it for his siblings because when you re in treatment, people drop stuff off at the clinic – blankets, stuffed animals – and he always felt bad because he has three siblings, and we would always be getting things for Chris.”
After a dangerous bout with pneumonia last month, doctors weren t sure the teen would make it and called in hospice, even asking him about his last wishes.
“It was kind of scary,” Chris tells PEOPLE of the conversation with his doctors. “I just kind of listened. It s been a bit of a struggle not being able to go to school and do normal kid activities. I miss hanging around people my age.”
It s been a trying year, his mom adds. This is the third time he s been in this year where they weren t sure he d make it.
That s why the family is determined to make his upcoming birthday on August 19 the best yet.
“We took off for the beach at the last minute because, well, we just don t know,” Michelle says.
And now they re hoping others will join in the celebration by sending Chris birthday cards.
“I like going to the mailbox. It s just an exciting feeling and it makes me feel special,” Chris says.
You can send a card to: Chris West PO Box 5244 Concord NC 28027.