National News

Barlow freshman fights cancer with style

Posted September 9

— It was quite a night at Barlow High recently. Not only was it the home opener for the Bruins, but one freshman from Gresham got to step on the field in a pair of Nike cleats that he helped design.

Oh, and one more thing - his beloved Oregon Ducks will be wearing the same kicks when they streak through the tunnel at Autzen Stadium Saturday afternoon.

Cancer survivor Joe MacDonald is pretty upbeat these days, going through life with an empowering motto.

"If you have heart and you love the game, you will get better every single day," he explained,

There were days when the Barlow freshman didn't feel that way, though. A battle with Burkitt leukemia, a fast spreading and rare form of blood cancer, left him exhausted.

"The same amount of treatment that people with cancer get about two-and-a-half years, I got that same amount of treatment but in about six or seven months," he explained. "There is one time I went through 100 hours of chemo in a week so 20 hours on 4 hours off. It was crazy. It was brutal."

That was then, this is now. Friday marks a highlight – four-years of remission – a success that could not go with a celebration.

"This Friday is actually my four-year remission date, so it is sort of meaning a lot to wear the cleat that I made for Children's Cancer," he said.

Those same kicks will hit the field in Eugene Saturday, a shock to the Ducks mega-fan.

"I freaked out. I didn't know what to do. My jaw dropped," Joe said. "I was speechless. Me being speechless doesn't happen very often."

Everyone will be talking about the Ducks uniforms when the team takes the field at Autzen for the Nebraska game on Saturday.

In collaboration with Ethan and Sophia, two other patients at Doernbecher Children's Hospital, Joe was part of the new Freestyle program, connecting OHSU kids with Nike designers to create new swag for the Ducks.

"Honestly, I'm an emotional person so I might get a little emotional," Joe described. "It's been such a crazy process and it means so much."

He was not the only one who was emotional. Joe's dad Ross is one proud papa of his son's fight.

"What he has done, and what he has gone through, is amazing. It makes other people like, 'Wow, I didn't really have it as hard as this kid who got it at 9 and 10 years old,'' he said. "What he went through and then now what he wants to do, and the fight he keeps giving and also being able to give back as much he can."

Joe and crew were tasked with designing the compression pants, socks and cleats. They went with a camo look, but they had more than the military in mind.

"The camo design was supposed to mean, cancer and chemo is a battle and I wanted to put something like, military design because they go through battles a lot," he explained.

Of course, his partners at Nike came up with a twist of Portland touches, adding details like trees, the tram and a chocolaty touch just for Joe.

"Every single time a nurse came in to help me, I always had a bag of chocolates with me," he said. "So when they came to change my saline or get my weight, I'd give them a chocolate to help them out. It was good."

A sweet thought on some sweet gear designed by a sweet kid.

"There's a lot of kids that are struggling right now," Joe said. "I am just happy to raise money and awareness for children's cancer."

Cancer research and awareness pays. In four years, the survival rate from Burkitt leukemia went from 30-percent to 90-percent.

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