TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) – AJ McKenzie is a living example that even superheroes get knocked down from time to time. AJ is battling a fairly rare form of lymphoma, but even while he's in the hospital fighting his disease, the 8 year old keeps his spark.
He can't leap tall buildings in a single bound, but, he's more than eager to teach those uninformed about his passion for video games.
"It's the last airbender - don't you know? It's based on 4 elements. Catara- he can't waterbend but he acts. A waterbender can control water. An airbender can control air," AJ explained passionately.
We met AJ while he was in Mercy Children's Hospital for his eighth round of chemotherapy since December 2011. Like the families of so many patients, Jack and Carrie McKenzie say their world turned upside down when the diagnosis came:
"I think the worst day was the initial diagnosis," Jack McKenzie said
"We pulled in and jack said 'I think its bad news,' and I said 'I'm not going to worry about it.'" Carrie McKenzie recalled.
"We think your son has cancer....cancer, it's a word that strikes dread and fear into everyone." ??????????
The treatment started immediately. The good news: AJ's form of cancer is very treatable. The bad news: The treatment itself, involving seemingly endless rounds of chemotherapy.
"Nine rounds of chemo. Usually six days a round. We're home for three or four days. We come back because he's running a fever or his blood counts are low and he needs a transfusion. We're here for four or five days. We're back home for four or five days. And then it's time to start the next round of chemo." ????????
That cycle hit a low point several months ago.
"My wife was staying with him - and he just curled up in her arms and said 'Mom, why is this happening to me?' That was probably the hardest day. He was wondering 'Why do I have to go through this, why am I getting punished this way?'" Jack McKenzie explained.
"At 11:30 or 12 o'clock at night he'd just curl up in a ball and start crying. There's nothing I can do honey. If I can do it, if dad could do it for you, we'd switch places. There's nothing we could do," Jack explained.
"There's a certain holy oil that you're only supposed to get once- I've gotten it 3 times so far," AJ explained.
However, there was support from the hospital staff and AJ's schoolmates. They made him a special blanket, and make him feel special the days he's able to come to school.
"It made me feel very happy - to know that people were looking out for me, caring for me. It's really hard to describe," AJ said.
Fortunately, AJ is now in the final stages of his treatment.
"In a couple of weeks I'll come back to the hospital and that will be my last round of chemo," AJ said happily.
"He faced it bravely. Every time we have a chemo treatment - every time we get a blood draw - he doesn't enjoy it, but he grits his teeth and he gets through it." ???????
"It's like waiting for Christmas day to show up. One more treatment left. One more doctor's visits left. One more dose of this medication and he can get on with his life."????????
If everything goes as planned, and the doctors give the OK, AJ will get to become superman again, and the first thing he says he will do is get out his roller skates.
"When he's out and he's playing with his friends - that's when we're going to have a smile on our face and we're going to say we're happy that he's here. We're really glad that he's experiencing this and he's not missing out."????????
"He's got a spark to him. He's one of those kids that's really smart and really quick - and when he's healthy you see that - and you say this is the AJ we all love." ???????
He will finally be able to become AJ AC, or AJ After Cancer.
You can help raise money for the Children's Miracle Network and hear stories about other families impacted by the organization by tuning in to our telethon Saturday night from 7:30 p.m. to 11 p.m., and then Sunday morning, from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.