To say David Young is a fighter and an inspiration is an understatement.
The eight-year-old, the son of Melanie Murphy and Steve Young, and the little brother to his sister Maria, took his Burkitts leukemia diagnosis like a prizefighter and went 15-rounds with the disease … and won.
Burkitts leukemia is a rare, fast-growing type of leukemia in which too many white blood cells called B lymphocytes form in the blood and bone marrow.
David’s story is inspirational to anyone suffering with the multitude of forms of cancer, as the young man from Paradise went through aggressive chemotherapy treatments, all its side effects, and came out the other side … all the while never complaining.
“He was tired and pretty sick at times. Those are typical symptoms of his treatments,’’ said his mother, Melanie Murphy.
“But he never kicked up once about the treatment and never complained,” his father Steve Young added just before the family were guests at a proclamation signing by the Town of Paradise in support of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Newfoundland and Labrador.
“I want to say thanks to all the people who help me and everyone who is out there like me,’’ David said.
When asked about the fundraising, David said he wants to make lots of money and rubs his hands together and smiles, saying, ‘Lots of money.”
David’s life is back to normal since his chemotherapy ended. Included in that is attending school again — he is a Grade 3 student at Topsail Elementary — playing soccer in Paradise, taking karate lessons with his sister at the Maxx Centre and just being a regular eight-year-old child, free of all the trials and tribulations associated with his cancer diagnosis.
“He is cancer-free and we couldn’t be happier,’’ Young said.
His fundraising for this year’s Light the Night activities is well underway, as he has already held a lemonade stand, is selling tickets and has a few more fundraising ideas in the works prior to the Oct. 13 event at Bowring Park.
According to David, his nurses were good, made him feel comfortable and one of his nurses had a bit of fun with him as they squirted each other with the saline tubes from David’s room.
“I got him pretty good,’’ David said.
In addition to the gaming, the fun with the nurses and making a host of new friends, David spent some time staying ahead of his schoolwork.
The teacher on staff at the Janeway — Miss Boone — spent a great deal of time working with him on a host of subjects.
One of those was from a request by David. In his room, there was an analog clock, which the majority of youth don’t know how to read these days.
So, they sat down, and David learned how it worked and how to read it, and now, in addition to digital, he has an analog skill.
“I really liked all the people from the playroom,’’ David said.
“We played Super Smash Brothers on the Nintendo Wii. That was fun,’’ he added.
Go figure … he enjoyed winning, and the fighting depicted in the game matched his spirit and tenacity in his battle against cancer.
A few days after learning about his cancer diagnosis David began his treatment at the Janeway Children’s Hospital in St. John’s. David received six rounds of in-patient chemotherapy, pretty much back-to back. Physically it took its toll on David’s little body, but mentally he was extremely strong. The medicine was a sword against the disease, and the support he received from his family, his friends and his community was his shield.
“The love he received throughout his treatments gave us all the strength to carry on,’’ she said. “His happy was always bigger than his cancer. His attitude was an inspiration,’’ Murphy said.
David turned seven in May 2017 and finished his treatment in August 2017.
After completing his treatments, David joined in the inaugural Light the Night event in St. John’s.
“David was full of joy at the Light the Night event. He and his sister were thrilled to be welcomed onstage by the society to help announce the final number of dollars raised,’’ Young said.
David, in true seven-year-old fashion — and despite the objections of his big sister — took the microphone and let everyone know who he was.
He exclaimed to the crowd that he was finished with his cancer.
“Hearing your child has cancer is hard. Telling people is even harder, especially explaining it to David and his sister,’’ Murphy said.
“Our routines have essentially returned back to normal. David and Maria both share a love for karate, Batman, entertaining and, of course dogs,’’ Murphy said.
“David is spending a lengthy amount of time trying to convince us to get him a Newfoundland dog. His most convincing argument to get a Newfoundland dog is that they can do laundry,’’ she added.
There have been big advancements in childhood leukemia cancer treatments. The survival rate has now grown to more than 90 per cent. With research, families can now hope for even better outcomes, treatments that don’t have life-long consequences, and potentially fulfilling the dream of a cure.
“We walk for a future where no family will ever hear the news that their child has leukemia, and a time when no child will ever be called on to be as brave as David was,’’ Murphy said.