Green Country Teen Cancer Free After Three-Year Battle
OWASSO, Oklahoma - Cancer tried to steal part of his childhood, but after three years of fighting, a Green Country teenager can now say he's a survivor.
It's a symbol of survival. Three rings of a bell to declare that Trace McWhirt has finally conquered his three year fight with cancer.
"By God's grace, I've run this race, McWhirt said. "The Battle is won today."
We first met McWhirt at a Drillers game just after he'd been diagnosed. He was there helping to put a face on the need for blood donations.
McWhirt was 13 at the time and still learning the name of the disease that was attacking his body. "Philadelphia Chromosome A.L.L. Acute," he said. Or, as McWhirt will tell you now, Philadelphia chromosome-B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, bragging that he can also spell it.
It's a rare defect, common in only about five percent of cancer patients.
"Right when I got diagnosed, I was pretty much kind of in shock, I guess," McWhirt said.
Once the shock wore off, the battle and sacrifices began. Trace hasn't been to school since he started treatment, he's taking classes online. And his home, for the most part, has been the hospital.
He's thrown out the first pitch for the Drillers the past three summers, but the cancer forced Trace to take a break from his real baseball team. It also put a hold on two of his favorite hobbies, hunting and fishing.
His mom, Tonya Blair said, "He wasn't crying, he took it like a champ."
And because he wasn't crying, Blair made sure nobody else was either.
"Throughout all his treatment, I did not allow anyone to be sorry for us. Nobody was allowed to cry in his room. I had strict rules," Blair said.
There were no tears, just hugs of celebration, when McWhirt's many supporters packed into a hallway at Saint Francis Children's Hospital to watch him ring the bell that closes his chapter with cancer.
"He's gonna gain his life back. We're no longer trying to fight the monster. It's us and that's it," Blair said.
Now, he's opening a new chapter, one of endless possibilities.
"I can move on, focus a little bit more on what's coming. I can look farther in the future, I guess," McWhirt said.
He is now 16, and driving. He's, of course, very happy to have hair again. The many chemo and radiation treatments stunted Trace's growth so his only wish now is to grow a little.
Since being diagnosed, McWhirt has received nearly 200 blood transfusions from the Oklahoma Blood Institute and he is still a very big advocate for that cause.