Dear Mark and The River Listeners,
I am writing to you on behalf of OJ, his parents and his brother. They would never speak out and ask for help or recognition, but with some coaxing, they have agreed to let me speak on their behalf. I first met OJ after his first biopsy surgery. He was in a tremendous amount of pain, but I would have never known it by the way he acted. OJ made eye contact with me. He answered all my questions with “Yes ma’am” and “No ma’am”. I had to press to get him to ask for the smallest things, like a drink, a snack or a pillow. OJ’s parents were the exact same way. They took in all the information about OJ’s diagnosis, High Risk T-Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia, with a quiet, strong grace. Both OJ’s mother and father asked thoughtful questions about next steps and focused all their energy on what was best for their son.
Over the past few months I have watched OJ and his parents take each new hurdle with a kind of strength and dignity that inspires me. OJ’s father has given up his job to take OJ back and forth between Savannah and Statesboro for his care. These past few weeks OJ has had to be in Savannah four or five days a week for either chemotherapy or radiation or both. OJ’s biggest worry, is when can he get back to weight lifting and conditioning for football? You see, before OJ got diagnosed with ALL in August, he was not only on the football team at his high school, but he was a wrestler as well. OJ’s teachers described him as a dedicated and respectful student who is exceptionally bright. In fact, OJ has big plans to get back on his football team, graduate from high school with honors and go on to college so that he can become an engineer. Corinthian, OJ’s mother, is working full time and doing her best to take care of OJ, his father and his brother, Deon who is a senior in high school.
Cancer is hard on anyone who experiences it, but can you imagine what a drastic change OJ must be handling? He went from being a star student athlete to the very shocking realization that this disease is attacking his body. A few weeks ago OJ had to be admitted to the hospital again to be treated for a serious infection that was proving to be a big threat to his well-being. The hardest part of his admission was not the medication he had to take or the second surgery he had to go through; the most difficult mountain for OJ to climb was the feeling of being isolated from his friends and extended family. So much of high school is about social connection with friends and teachers and other people in the community. Right now those face to face connections are not really a possibility for OJ because of his ALL and the treatment to make it go away.
When I asked OJ’s father, Leon, what he wanted for Christmas, he told me all he wanted was for his family to be well, healthy and happy. Help with bills and groceries would be a wonderful thing for this family as they move through the holiday season. Leon and Corinthian both like to play games to take their minds off of their worries. Leon likes Play Station 2 and Corinthian prefers Nintendo Switch.
OJ loves most of things that teenagers love. He likes to watch YouTube and Netflix (he just started watching Stranger Things). He is trying his best to keep up with his school work but he easily tires out because of his chemotherapy. OJ shared that he could really use a laptop or an Apple watch to do work from home. He would love a pair of Beats Solos so that he can wear them when he is allowed to exercise again.
Deon, OJ’s brother loves anime and video games. It would be wonderful for him to have a laptop for school and these other free time pursuits.
OJ appreciates good fashion and shared that he likes to shop at Rue 21. His father interjected that Walmart has everything that they need! OJ smiled and shared that they also get things from Office Max, JCPenny, and GameStop. OJ’s favorite restaurants in Statesboro are Seasons of Japan, KFC, Chik-fil-A, Taco Bell, Wendy’s, Zaxby’s and Dominoes.
Thank you for listening to how wonderful OJ and his family are. When I asked OJ how he was dealing with his cancer he shared, “Miss Stephanie, my cancer is just a challenge that God has given me to overcome. I know I can. It will make me stronger.” Anything that you and your listeners can do to help OJ and his family “overcome and get stronger” would be a true blessing.
Stephanie Cannon Mobley, MSW