Ethan Butler speaks with the maturity and intellect of someone much older than his 13 years. Perhaps it's because he has experienced more than most of his peers, having been diagnosed with leukemia almost three years ago.
"They reassured me it was something they could treat," said Ethan, recalling the day in July 2001 when doctors told him he had leukemia, which explained his fever, paleness and constant bruising.
Shortly after being diagnosed with the childhood cancer, Ethan enrolled in a three-year clinical trial for chemotherapy treatment at the Medical College of Georgia Children's Medical Center.
Initially, he underwent chemotherapy weekly at the clinic, which has now been reduced to monthly visits. He still takes a daily dose of chemotherapy at home in the form of a pill and has to undergo a spinal tap every three months, what once was a weekly ordeal.
"It has been a success as far as we know," he said.
When talking to Ethan, it doesn't take long to realize that he's a determined young man: determined to beat this illness, determined to succeed at school and determined to make his diagnosis as easy as possible for his parents, Mike and Jennifer Butler of Evans, and younger sister, Taylor, 9.
"They told his father and me, before Ethan knew, that it was cancer," Mrs. Butler said. "And when we went in to talk to Ethan, he said, 'I have cancer, don't I?' He had just figured it out by himself."
Mrs. Butler said her son's strength comes from a source that she can't pinpoint but his inquisitiveness about his illness, treatment and everything in between has helped the family deal with the cancer.
Even though Ethan Butler, 13, was diagnosed with leukemia three years ago, he hasn't let it keep him from excelling in school.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
"He wants to know everything," she said. "He's always asking questions."
It's that inquisitiveness that has likely earned him the respect of his peers and made him a favorite among teachers at Greenbrier Middle School, where he will enter the eighth grade in the fall.
"Through his positive attitude, Ethan has taught his teachers and peers how to face adversity," wrote Laura Collins, Kelli Middleton, Randy Smith, Lisa Powell and Linda Grooms, as they reflected on their year as Ethan's seventh-grade teachers. "He has battled leukemia and other health for several years, never complaining about his physical condition."
Last year, Ethan was elected by his peers to serve on the school's student council. He also participated in the Future Business Leaders of America, garnering a second-place title in the state spreadsheet competition and national recognition for his achievement.
An avid computer user, Ethan also serves on the MCG Children's Advisory Committee, which the Greenbrier Middle FBLA has chosen as its community service project, and was awarded the highest average certificate for both pre-algebra and writing at the school's honors day event earlier this spring.
"I've never had a B in my life," said Ethan, when asked how he maintains an all-A average despite frequent absences due to his illness. "I just try really hard not to get one. I'm also a bit of a perfectionist."
But Ethan, who has considered a career as a doctor or a businessman, is quick to admit that without his parents, he probably wouldn't try nearly as hard.
As for his teachers, they say it's this extraordinary young man who inspires them to do well.
"He has truly shown us how to make the most of our talents and appreciate our blessings."
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