Erik Lerch, 13, loved cycling, video games

March 26, 2006

Erik Lerch, a sweet-natured boy who loved video games, riding his bicycle, white harbor seals, remote-control cars and cyclist Lance Armstrong, died of leukemia Monday at his Mount Airy home. He was 13.

Erik was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma when he was 10 and underwent chemotherapy at Johns Hopkins Children's Center. The cancer went into remission briefly, but the next year doctors told him he had leukemia.

After another round of treatment, Erik again seemed to be getting better.

In 2005, Erik's father, William Lerch, died of a heart attack while playing ice hockey. Three week's later Erik was given a third diagnosis, this time of testicular cancer, said his mother, Joan Lerch.

In 2005, after pupils at Erik's school, Mount Airy Middle School, started a letter-writing campaign, Erik met Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, a cancer survivor, at a leukemia and lymphoma fundraiser in Las Vegas, Mrs. Lerch said.

The two spoke for a half-hour in the athlete's suite, and afterward, singer Sheryl Crow sang "Happy Birthday" to Erik, who had recently turned 13.

"He was proud of Lance," Mrs. Lerch said. "If Lance could fight and if Lance could do it, Erik could do it."

As his illness advanced, Erik had the opportunity to fly in a Maryland State Police helicopter and was knighted by a local Knights of Columbus group. Good Charlotte, a band he loved, gave him an autographed guitar.

A funeral service was held Friday.

In addition to his mother, he is survived by a brother, Tony Quintana of Jessup.

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