This season, when the stadium lights at Alexandria High School stadium shine down on the football team, Ethan Turner will be on the field with a smile. He has spent the last three years on the sidelines of the sport he loves because he had leukemia, which is now in remission.
Ironically, playing football in the eighth grade helped him get an early diagnosis of cancer. When he went to a doctor for his annual football exam, he told him he had pain in his hip. Blood tests revealed the leukemia, and the doctor sent him to Children’s Hospital in Birmingham at once. He has come a long way since then and is glad to return to his normal activities.
In addition to playing football this year, he will continue his outstanding record as a student. He is taking the Calculus 1 course three days a week at JSU, is studying physics each day at AHS, and is serving his fellow students in several capacities: he is president of the Student Government Association and is a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the yearbook committee, the Christian Club, the Honor Society since sixth grade, and the Principal’s Club for all A’s since sixth grade. Recently, he received exciting news: he has been accepted into the civil engineering program at the University of Alabama.
However, he takes his accomplishments in stride.
“I am not that smart,” he said, “but I go in, do my work, and get out.”
“Doing his work” is something his home-bound teacher, Amanda Pritchett, knows firsthand. She was his second- and third-grade teacher. When she learned about his need for homebound studies in order to prevent infection during his chemo treatments, she signed up for the job and remembered the delight she discovered when teaching him years ago.
“He was a special young man even then and a brilliant student,” Pritchett said. “Every challenging problem I put before him, he would persevere through and solve. He was super witty and always cracking on my corny teacher jokes. We produced a class play and he stepped up and surprised us all by singing a solo as Pecos Bill.”
His parents, Tommy and Amanda Turner, and his older sister, Emilee, a student at Gadsden State Community College, are also Ethan’s big supporters. Recently, he was baptized at Leatherwood Baptist Church where he also has the support of members, especially those in the youth ministry program.
Thanks to the support and his upbeat attitude, Ethan faces the future with courage about having had cancer.
“It is what it is,” he said. “I never felt any different and was not depressed. I thought this is how things go. However, I did get depressed about not playing football. I didn’t like going to Birmingham so often, and sometimes I felt a little jealous of others that I could not play football.”
His mother said she is proud of her son. Recently, while thinking back on all the family has been through, the twice-weekly trips to Birmingham and the fear that goes along with having a child with cancer, she looked up the meaning of his name.
“’Ethan’ means strong,” she said. “And the first shirt he ever wore said, ‘Be strong and be courageous. It has all flowed together at the right time. Ethan has always set goals, and he finds a way to succeed. That is why he did not apply to any other college.”
No doubt that the entire Alexandria community will be cheering for Ethan each Friday night.
His teacher added, “I am so incredibly proud to watch Ethan as he walks onto the field underneath those Friday night lights next week! It’s a dream of his that leukemia couldn’t rob from him.”
Email Sherry at firstname.lastname@example.org.