Colby Atkinson of Smyrna, DE, was awarded the 2017 “Strong Arm” Leukemia Scholarship. Colby, 18, will attend University of Delaware this fall. Colby spent the first two years of high school battling an aggressive form of cancer, and somehow managed to graduate in the top 10 percent of his class, with a 3.95 GPA. Colby will use the $1,000 to help his parents pay for his college education.
In 2013, his freshman year of high school, Colby was diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia , a rare subtype of leukemia. He was hospitalized for long periods of time, first for chemotherapy, 163 blood transfusions and a bone marrow transplant. In his essay, which you can read here, Colby writes that if you think cancer is tough, “Try surviving a bone marrow transplant.”
The heroes in Colby’s story, he wrote, are his family. His mother, Virginia, quit her job as a teacher in his high school to devote herself to his health. More than that, she was able to be his donor.
“My mom said it was like giving life to me all over again,’’ Colby said.
His father, brother and grandparents were the handful of visitors he was allowed while in the hospital. Isolated, critically ill and in pain, Colby managed to power through to keep up with his classwork. The hospital provided teachers who coordinated with his school district.
He wasn’t able to attend school his sophomore year because of his weakened immune system from the transplant. But somehow the schoolwork helped.
“Focusing on my academics allowed me to control something in my life, despite the fact that I could not control anything else that was happening to me. Believe it or not, schoolwork brought me comfort,” he wrote.
Colby credits his time as an athlete as giving him the tools to fight through whatever pain and challenges the disease and treatment sent his way. Before he got sick, he was a pitcher and first baseman in baseball and a left guard in football. “Sports give you the ability to push your body beyond expectation.”
As a senior he was a student coach for the high school football team, using his battle with cancer to inspire players to play through adversity.
He would like to study sports management and “Stay in the game.”
Colby says to anyone who would like to support a friend or loved one going through a tough illness, “Stay positive around them. If you are able to, visit them. I know I felt kind of lonely,’’ he said.
And more importantly, “Treat them how they were before.”
Interview with Colby Atkinson
Applicants for this scholarship must write a 500- to 1,000-word essay and are enrolled or about to enroll in an accredited institution in the United States.
You can read Colby’s full essay by clicking here.
John Foy, our firm’s founder, began this scholarship in 2015 to raise awareness for this often-fatal disease. John Foy & Associates, founded in 1999, has almost 30 attorneys and 70 paralegals, investigators and other support staffs, and is one of Atlanta’s most recognizable and respected personal injury law firms.
For more information on the scholarship or John Foy & Associates, contact Jody Davis, our Director of Marketing, at firstname.lastname@example.org.