Diagnosed with acute lymphoid leukemia at 13, his attitude of “it’s just something you have to do” once carried him through two years of treatment at Texas Children’s Cancer Center. Now it helps him manage some of the lasting effects of that treatment, and even helped him win a national award.
Prompted by his physician, Dr. ZoAnn Dreyer, Scott answered the Andre Sobel River of Life Foundation’s nation-wide call for essays on the topic “The letter I would have liked to receive during my illness.” His letter won first prize in that contest, including a sizeable cash award. Directed to teenage cancer patients, Scott talks frankly about the good times and the bad — all with a sense of humor.
He outlines how to use laughter to manage pain, what to expect from parents and friends, and how to maintain dignity in sometimes trying circumstances. After describing the many affects of chemotherapy, including having to wear a mask with “cute pink and blue teddy bears on it,” Scott says that losing all his hair was the most depressing.
“Hey, us guys have an image to maintain,” writes Scott. “I was surprised to find that the guys in my class wanted to shave their heads to make me feel more comfortable…My illness gave me the opportunity to see a true friend shine, and the ones not so true, diminish. To me, that’s a gift.”
Scott and his mother were scheduled to attend an awards ceremony in Los Angeles on Sept. 12 but were unable to fly when all flights were grounded after Sept. 11. “We’ve still got the tickets and can use them to go anywhere, but we’ll probably still go to Los Angeles, see the people at the Foundation, take a tour of the city and shop and do all the fun stuff,” said Scott.
Dreyer has seen Scott’s humor and spirit at work since his first visits to Texas Children’s. “He spontaneously developed a newsletter for other patients with jokes and games and was our first patient in a wheelchair to attend our camp,” said Dreyer. “Those of us who know Scott were struck by his letter and that he didn’t mention he could have lost the use of his legs as a result of treatment. But that’s Scott. He and his mother are very gracious, positive people.”
For Scott, the best part about his treatment at Texas Children’s was making friends with other patients, and getting to meet celebrities who visited the Cancer Center. “The best thing about the staff was that they all knew what they were doing and that they are all so nice,” said Scott.
Since receiving his award, Scott has been recognized by his school and featured in two local newspapers. He used some of his prize money to buy a new computer and a four-wheeler for one of his brothers. When he goes to college, this hopeful, energetic young man plans to major in medicine.