Jul 29, 2014

Lovinggood Student Defeats Cancer

More than 100 friends, family and neighbors gathered Saturday at 12-year-old John Willis's home to celebrate his lymphoma remission.

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John Willis, a 12-year-old Powder Springs boy who in January was diagnosed with lymphoma, is moving on with life as his cancer has subsided.

More than 100 family members, friends, school teachers and neighbors celebrated his remission Saturday at his home with hot dogs, snow cones and cake.

“It feels great,” said John, who was wrapped in a beach towel, sparring a moment from repeatedly sliding down a backyard water slide with several friends to talk. “I continued to think positive, and I heard from my nurses that exercising is positive, too.”

Since ending his last chemotherapy treatment in June, John said he has visited his grandparents in North Carolina and an aunt in Texas, and has spent time at a summer camp for children cancer survivors near Eatonton, GA.

The color has returned to John’s skin, and the hair has regrown on top of his head. He in late February before chemotherapy could claim it.

John feels that he’s even gotten a tad taller.

Sam Willis, John’s father, said it’s time for the family to move on.

“It’s just normal to go on and not pamper him,” he said. “He’s gone through treatment, and now we’ve got to drive on. We can’t be stagnant and worry.”

John was diagnosed with anaplastic large cell lymphoma following a doctor’s visit for pain under his arm in January. Lymphoma is the most common blood cancer, according to the Lymphoma Research Foundation. The two main forms are Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which includes the version John was diagnosed with.

The disease also was found in nine other areas of his body. Since the discovery, John has received chemotherapy treatments and a minor surgical procedure where a port was installed to avoid repeated needle injections. The port was removed last week, John said.

Teachers and students at , where he attends, rallied for him during a Relay For Life of Cobb County event in May. Prayer groups from as far away as California and Utah reached out to the Willis family.

“We’re so blessed to have great friends,” said John’s mother, Lisa. “We really did feel covered in friends and in prayer, and Children’s (Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston) was phenomenal.”

John is excited to return to school Monday. Ethel Shockley, an attendee of Saturday's celebration and John's seventh-grade math teacher, said that even while he was away from school, he always was three weeks ahead in his course work.

He came to a meet-and-greet at the school last week, she said, "and we’re all so pleased to see him."

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