MINNEAPOLIS – Ethan Fisher, the 10-year-old son of Florida State football coach Jimbo Fisher and his ex-wife, Candi, is fighting a life-threatening disease called Fanconi anemia that requires Ethan to make annual trips to the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital for checkups.
Diagnosed five years ago, Ethan looks no different than any typical 10-year-old. He is active, plays many different sports (although he is prohibited from contact sports) and is a 5-star prospect when it comes to the card game UNO.
But beneath the surface, Ethan suffers from a disease that affects 1-in-130,000 children. The average life expectancy for someone with FA is about 35 years but continues to grow with some patients now living into their 50s. FA is an inherited disorder that causes bone marrow failure, a very high risk for leukemia and other cancers, along with physical changes or anomalies.
The Fishers’ divorce was finalized in December after 22 years of marriage, yet they remain united on one front: tackling FA, not only for Ethan but for every other child who suffers from this disease, through their Kidz1stFund foundation, which has benefited all FA patients by raising about $3.5 million for research.
Last month, they allowed Palm Beach Post photographer Allen Eyestone and me unprecedented access into their private lives as we accompanied the Fishers to the hospital for eight hours while Ethan was put through a battery of tests.
The family emerged encouraged with the results, but they know this fight is enduring.
“It’s an opponent for the rest of our lives,” Jimbo said. “It’s not going to define us as people. We’re going to define it. That glass is half full or half empty and you let it eat you up or you attack it.
“Everybody can be beaten. Every team can be beaten. Every disease can be beaten. You just got to make it happen.”
Following the trip to Minneapolis, I sat down with Fisher in his office to discuss the impact Ethan’s diagnosis and his divorce has had on a man who lives his life in a fishbowl with a high-profile job requiring long, stress-filled hours. Fisher was sincere and candid, revealing for the first time the difficult decisions he had to make in both his professional and personal lives.
On Wednesday, PalmBeachPost.com will publish in-depth stories on Ethan’s life, how Jimbo Fisher has coped with one of his two children fighting an incurable disease and how Jimbo and Candi have helped advance FA research. The stories will run in print in the Palm Beach Post on April 24 and 25.