MORAVIA — Moravia middle schooler Logan Bell probably never thought his name would become a hashtag.
#Loganstrong is common in the halls at his school and the community after the 12-year-old received the news last month: He has cancer.
It started in mid-November at his favorite place, the basketball court, said his mother, Tiffany Bell. He was playing guard.
“He seemed like he was out of breath,” Bell said. But he kept playing. Four days later, he played only a few minutes before he had to come off the court.
Thinking her son had a respiratory infection, Bell took him to the doctor the next day, where a lump was detected in his neck.
The lump pushed against his trachea, causing the shortness of breath. A biopsy showed it was T-cell lymphoma, which can become leukemia if it spreads to the bone marrow before chemotherapy can beat it.
About T-cell lymphoma
• Non-Hodgkin T lymphoblastic lymphoma can occur in both children and adults. With more bone marrow involvement, the disease is considered leukemia.
• It is a fast-growing cancer for which chemotherapy is a standard treatment for up to two years.
• If caught before bone marrow involvement, as Logan Bell’s was, the long-term survival rate tops 90 percent.
Source: American Cancer Society
“I was absolutely devastated,” Bell said. “I couldn’t even believe what I was hearing. I literally thought … it was some kind of virus causing the lymph nodes to go crazy and I find out a week later it was cancer. I was devastated.”
When she and her husband, Dennis, delivered the news to their son, pulling him out of school on Nov. 20 to tell him, it took a moment for the news to sink in.
“He paused, and then said, ‘Wait a minute, are you telling me I have cancer?” recalled Bell.
Then he asked, “Is it a cancer that can kill me?”
Bell assured him that with treatment there is a good prognosis — better than 90 percent.
“He was determined from that moment he was just going to get better,” she said.
That night, Logan was admitted to Upstate University Hospital, starting chemotherapy the next day.
The tumor grew so much in one night, that what started as him being admitted on the regular inpatient oncology floor, ended up landing him in the intensive care unit because of respiratory distress.
He stayed a week — spending Thanksgiving with his family in the hospital — and was released Nov. 25 to begin outpatient chemotherapy.
The treatments will continue three times a week for two years.
Bell isn’t certain what it will entail, but she knows the school will be behind them.
Teachers fielded ideas from one another and from students about the best gestures of support. His homeroom teacher, Stephanie Cronk, arranged with students a basket of sunshine, a yellow-themed gift basket filled with treats and goodies.
“The biggest thing was to put a smile on his face,” Cronk said.
Cronk described Logan as an “awesome, awesome kid” who works very hard and helps other students when they need it.
“It was the first few weeks of school, and he said, ‘I like coming to school, I like learning,’ and that is not something you hear,” she said.
A week after Logan was discharged, he entered the gym for a basketball game against Union Springs to see every student wearing navy blue #Loganstrong shirts, bearing an insignia of the green ribbon that stands for the fight against lymphoma on one side and his last name and team number on the back. A classmate came up with the idea.
“It was really unbelievable,” Tiffany Bell said. She said since then, countless T-shirts have been sold, with proceeds going to help the family defray medical costs. The school is promoting through its website, a Gofundme page set up to help Logan’s family. It has raised $5,100 so far.
“There is not a greater feeling when someone else shows love for your child,” Bell said. “And that they’re important and mean something, to me that’s been the biggest thing.”
Logan just looks forward to living a normal life again.
“I want to play basketball like I used to,” Logan said in a text message. “I want to do what other kids do, like playing video games and going to school regularly. I miss seeing my friends every day.”
His advice to another kid diagnosed with lymphoma: Don’t be too scared.
“It seems scary, but the doctors and nurses are really nice and they make it easier on you,” he said. “The treatments aren’t hard to do, they just seem scary.”