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Go Ask Mom

Duke Children's Patient Story: Unwavering smile, fearless heart

Posted February 13, 2012

Editor's Note: Go Ask Mom will share the stories of two Duke Children's patients during this week's 18th annual MIX 101.5 WRAL-FM Radiothon for Duke Children’s Hospital & Health Center.

Josh looks like most eight-year-old boys: Outgoing, playful and full of life. His cheerful face and good nature instantly puts a smile on the face of anyone he encounters.

Josh gives the appearance of a typical child, however, it is not until he begins to speak that you realize you are in the presence of a smart, witty young man who is as fearless as they come. Josh loves to laugh and make friends, and his thought-provoking questions are full of depth and are certain to keep you on your toes. Unlike most children, however, Josh is in his second year of a three-year battle with cancer.

In April 2010, a few days after his first T-ball game, Josh suddenly began experiencing high fevers, migraines and uncontrollable joint pain. His parents, Jon and Debbie, immediately took him to his pediatrician. After several days and numerous medical tests, Josh was admitted to Duke Children’s Hospital & Health Center. It was there the team of doctors confirmed every parent’s worst fear: Josh has cancer.

Josh was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common type of childhood cancer, affecting the white blood cells and bone marrow. Josh was immediately scheduled for surgery to place a port in his chest and began the intense regimen of spinal, IV and oral chemotherapy. He was hospitalized for the first month and went from playing T-ball to not being able to get out of bed by himself.

The first six months were the most intense and scary. Josh lost his hair, one quarter of his body weight and most of his endurance, but never his radiant smile. He is now in the maintenance portion of therapy which consists of daily oral chemotherapy, monthly IV and quarterly lumbar punctures. This whole process will continue well into 2013.

Though the procedures are painful and the side effects of all of the drugs are staggering, Josh walks into clinic with a wave and a smile for everyone he sees. He goes through his closet to bring toys and stuffed animals to share with the “kids who are scared” and is always concerned when he hears a child cry. Josh is only too aware that whatever he may be going through, someone else is going through worse.

He has aged beyond his years and chooses to use his experience to help others. Throughout the past 18 months, Josh has been at the forefront of spreading awareness about childhood cancer. Josh has made videos for other patients at Duke Children’s on pill swallowing and port access. He has spoken at press conferences and large organizational banquets. He has even motivated the Carolina Hurricanes, North Carolina’s NHL professional ice hockey team, before a 5K fun run.

Josh certainly lives up to his fearless reputation. For 2011, Josh was named the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) North Carolina chapter’s Boy of the Year.

Like so many patients at Duke Children’s, Josh is a shining example of the power of a positive attitude and strength in adversity. No one is quite the same after meeting this young cancer-fighting hero.

Please consider supporting the 18th annual MIX 101.5 WRAL-FM Radiothon for Duke Children’s Hospital & Health Center to help kids like Josh get better. MIX 101.5 morning show hosts Bill Jordan and Lynda Loveland will host the annual fund-raising event on Tuesday and Wednesday with live broadcasts from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the lobby of McGovern-Davison Children’s Health Center. Click here to find out how you can help. (Duke Medicine is Go Ask Mom's sponsor).
 

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