Second in a Series
A local teen by the name of Daniel Chumley, 18, tells us about his fight with cancer at a very young age. According to Daniel’s mother Deborah Chumley, Daniel was almost 2-years-old when he was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia.
According to cancer.gov, this type of cancer affects the blood and bone marrow. The type of leukemia that Daniel had usually gets worse if it’s not treated quickly. It is also the most common type of cancer in children.
Deborah said her son was always sick when he was young.
“He always had colds and ear aches that never went away. The minute he started to run a fever of 104, we took him to the children’s hospital in Knoxville. The first thing they did was blood work and when his blood came out so thin and in an orange color, I knew something wasn’t right,” states Deborah.
“When I first found out my son had cancer of course I was devastated. I didn’t know anything about it, I just knew it was cancer and he would have to endure chemotherapy for three years,” states Deborah.
Deborah says Daniel had to go through intense chemotherapy for the first two months and then maintenance for 32 months after that. Since the leukemia was caught early, Daniel didn’t have to endure any radiation.
“Dr. Ray Pais was our doctor at the children’s hospital and he was amazing. Everyone there was so nice and supportive,” says Deborah.
Deborah said she was always told her son was a fighter even at a young age, and that makes a big difference when it comes to fighting leukemia. “Dr. Pace also said that the survival rate is higher for children who have cancer because they don’t really know the fear behind it,” adds Deborah.
Deborah says that Daniel went into remission when he was 5 years old, but they got very attached to everyone at the hospital because even after the chemo was over, Daniel had to go back there for check-ups for over eight years.
“Leukemia can come back so easy, which is why we had to follow up at the doctor for so many years,” says Deborah.
Even as a 2-year-old Daniel says that he remembers a lot about the entire process.
“I remember always being at the hospital because during the intense chemotherapy I had to be there three days a week. That kind of thing just sticks with you,” said Daniel.
When Daniel was young he had trouble with basic motor skills because of the cancer.
“I had to see an occupational therapist for over a year because I had trouble writing and using my hands. I later found out that I had trouble with my wrists, ankles and knees as well,” says Daniel.
The main thing Daniel says he remembers is getting the needles put in his legs and back for the treatments.
“I still have scars from the treatments and from the port they had to put in my chest that stayed there until I was 6 years old,” says Daniel. “To this day, I still don’t like for people to touch my back,” he adds.
Daniel says after all he went through as a child, it made him who he is today.
“I’m not afraid of anything because having cancer made me a fighter. At the time I didn’t really understand what was going on, but I knew my body was fighting off something,” said Daniel.
Daniel says his older sister Candace was his number one fan when he was going through cancer.
“She was so protective even when I would have mood swings from the medicine when I was young, and we are still very close,” said Daniel.
Daniel played football at Cumberland Gap High School and for his size, he was a relatively small offensive lineman.
“I was very small for a lineman but I could take out guys twice my size because I wasn’t afraid,” said Daniel. Deborah says that his high school football coach described him in one word as a “warrior.”
Daniel recently decided to donate over 1-foot of his hair to locks of love.
“I had always wanted to grow out my hair and donate it because I am a cancer survivor, but my mom never would let me. We finally decided to do it and I let it grow for over a year. When I got it cut off this past August, there were three, thick pony tails full of hair to donate,” said Daniel.
Deborah said that the main thing Daniel has been blessed with is his gift of playing the guitar.
“When he was going through occupational therapy, they told him the best thing to do was to play the guitar. When he was around 12 years old he picked up on it like his father and now he is very good at it,” adds Deborah.
Daniel is currently majoring in music production at Walter State University. He is in great health and wants to be an influence to people around him that have undergone cancer.
“You can get past anything, even leukemia and live a normal life after it’s over,” Daniel said.
Chase Smith is a staff writer for the Middlesboro Daily News. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.