GoFundMe set up for 3-year-old boy with cancer, a sixth-generation grandson of Marler family

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

Playing in the dirt with his trucks, showing Grandma how fast he can run or just playing with his dog are a few of the things young Caiden Nicholson loves to do.

However, all those things have been put on hold. 

Caiden, the 3-year-old son of Cassie and James Nicholson of Niceville, is in Shands Cancer Hospital in Gainesville undergoing treatment after a large tumor was removed from his kidney.

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Caiden is a sixth-generation grandson of William T. Marler and John Maltezo, two of the founding families of Destin. 

Caiden Nicholson, 3, is described as playful and lively by his uncle and grandmother.

The Monday after Easter, Caiden was out playing with his dog, Champ, or as he calls him “Pamp,” a 60-pound pit bull. The two were rough-housing and the dog knocked Caiden down. 

Not long after the fall, Caiden became lethargic and his mom rushed him to Destin ER where he was taken by ambulance to Pensacola. A CT scan showed Caiden had a large tumor on his kidney. After more testing, he was taken to Shands. 

The Friday after the fall, he underwent surgery and doctors removed the kidney, adrenal gland, tumor and five lymph nodes.

“They were all like squished together into one big mass,” said Caiden’s grandmother, Carla Marler. 

Caiden Nicholson, 3, is seen after his surgery.

“It was like their longest surgery,” she added, noting it took five hours to remove the tumor. Counting time in post-op, Caiden’s surgery took 10 hours. 

Last week, the family received news that Caiden has neuroblastoma adrenal gland cancer and will have to undergo at least six months of chemotherapy. 

Help Caiden's family 

Cassie and James are staying with Caiden in Gainesville while he undergoes treatment. And with the family having to travel back and forth between Destin and Gainesville, they need accommodations. 

Matthew Sweetser, Caiden's uncle, decided to start a GoFundMe page simply entitled, “Help Caiden Nicholson’s Family. Cancer Fund!” 

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“They are over there and they have to pay their mortgage here and apartment over there,” Sweetser explained. 

Even after insurance, the chemotherapy, radiation and hospitalization is costly. 

“So, I was just trying to get ahead of it and get some money raised,” said Sweetser, Carla Marler's brother. 

While at Shands and on the home front 

“It threw everything upside down for sure,” Marler said. 

Marler and her husband Greg, son of Capt. Dave Marler, are keeping Caiden’s older siblings, Olivia, 13, and Carter, 10, at their home in Destin while Caiden is undergoing treatment. 

“They are doing OK,” Marler said of Caiden's brother and sister. 

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“At the beginning we were all crying, but now we’re getting them into a routine and they are keeping busy,” she said. 

As for Caiden at Shands, “He wants his dad a lot of the time. … He feels safe with his dad,” Marler said.  

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, only one parent can be in Caiden's hospital room at a time. 

Caiden Nicholson, 3, is undergoing treatment for cancer.

“He’s scared a lot; he’s just 3. … He doesn’t know why people are coming in and poking him and hurting him and doing stuff to him. He’s definitely wanting his dad for the safety part of it. 

“And then when he doesn’t feel good, he wants Momma,” Marler said. “It’s a lot for my daughter. You have your child calling you and you can’t help them. He’s got chemo, radiation and bone marrow therapy at the end. He’s got a lot of stuff coming at him.”

Caiden is "all boy"

“He’s such a lively little man and he loves to be outside with his dog, Champ,” Sweetser said. 

"He's a character for sure. Very energetic … he likes to run real fast,” Marler said, noting he likes to watch the Marvel characters. 

“He's very sweet,” she said. 

Before Caiden's diagnosis, Marler would keep Caiden in the afternoons until his mom got off work from Compass Resorts. 

Caiden Nicholson, 3, loves his dog, Champ.

“He loves trucks and riding his scooter. But he likes to play with his trucks in the dirt,” she said. 

And he loves Champ. 

“We were mad at (Champ) at first because he bumped into his stomach,” Marler said. “But now we’re thankful that he did, because we would have never had a CAT scan done on him.”

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Champ is also staying with the Marlers. 

“I think he’s wondering why he’s here all the time now … and where’s my Caiden,” she said of the dog. 

Caiden the rainbow baby

A rainbow baby is a baby who is born shortly after the loss of a previous baby due to miscarriage, stillbirth or death in infancy. A rainbow typically follows a storm as a sign of hope. 

Cassie Marler had a stillbirth two years before giving birth to Caiden, thus Caiden is her rainbow baby. And the Nicholson family is looking for hope and prayer for their rainbow boy. 

Caiden Nicholson, 3, is at Shands Cancer Hospital in Gainesville undergoing treatment for cancer.

Marler relayed a message from her daughter: “I just want the prayers, the financial part is good and we’re going to need that … but really the prayers are what we need … because it’s going to be a long battle and a tough one.

“He’s been through some tough stuff already,” Marler said.

For future updates or to help the family out, go to their GoFundMe page at