Donte Bush, 21, is a business administration major at Florida A&M University.
Affectionately known as “Tae,” he’s seen to those around him as the life of the party. But behind that big personality is an inspiring story to be told.
Like any other young boy, Bush played sports. Baseball, to be exact.
During this time, he noticed lumps under his neck. His parents took him to his doctor, but they were told it was just one of the symptoms of a cold.
Those lumps eventually got bigger and began to affect him tremendously. During a baseball tournament, Bush recalled when things took a turn for the worse.
“I was running to first base and I couldn’t breathe,” Bush said.
He was rushed to the hospital, only this time his parents received a different response than what his doctor told them initially. Bush, 10, was diagnosed with stage 4 leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues.
“They came back and just told my parents I had leukemia cancer with 30 days to live,” Bush said.
The hospital that diagnosed him basically gave up on the Atlanta native and his family, compelling them to transfer Bush to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis for treatment.
Bush remembers exactly what he was thinking when he was diagnosed. At the time, one of his favorite movies was “Express,” a film based on the life of the football player, Ernie Davis. He lost his battle with leukemia, so Bush thought his fate would be the same.
“I remember telling my family, I don’t want to die,” Bush said.
During this stage, all he had was his immediate family by his side. The cancer was stubborn during the first few rounds of treatment and the levels showed no significant decrease. But once Bush’s older brother arrived, astonishingly the cancer showed a “drastic drop.”
His family tried their best not to show their emotions to him, but in some instances, it just could not be concealed. Bush noticed that everything was honestly taking a toll on his parents. Especially when one of his nurses accidentally gave him the wrong medication, which caused his body to have a bad reaction. This seemed to really add more pressure to his parents, along with everything else.
“I remember one time telling them I don’t care if I die, I just want you all to be happy,” Bush said.
Bush also spoke of experiencing ridiculing from other kids in public, who didn’t understand what he was going through.
“I still have insecurities today,” he said, citing it as one of the reasons he always wears hats.
After about seven months of the chemotherapy and radiation, Bush’s cancer finally went into remission. Before returning home, he had to undergo a bone marrow transplant with his younger sister, who was about 5 years old. Bush said that he actually was a perfect match for both his older brother and younger sister. That was one of the main things that made his case so special, because being a perfect match for both siblings was rare.
Although the cancer was gone, Bush couldn’t return to living a normal life as a child just yet. Because of the new bone marrow, his body was still adjusting. He couldn’t play sports anymore and he needed assistance with walking.
“I had to get all of my shots over again. I really just finished getting my shots over last year,” Bush said.
Bush regards his experience with cancer as motivation in life. Because of what he’s experienced, he acknowledges that things could always be worse than what they are. He also says his family is his biggest inspiration, since they have been his support system through everything.
Ever since the remission, Bush has returned to St. Jude’s for research. His last visit was this past August. Because his case was rare, Bush said that they gave him the option of doing research on himself to help other kids going through the same thing.
“If they needed me to do anything involving test results, giving blood, doing another scan, I was there because I just wanted to help,” Bush said.
Kristyn Mobley, a friend of Bush’s, used one word to describe him. That was “strong.”
“Some people can’t turn situations like that into something good. Some people would’ve let that situation define their whole life,” Mobley said.
From her perspective, Bush doesn’t let those past circumstances define him at all.
“He’s just a prime example of facing adversity and then learning and growing from it,” Rodney Tape, another friend of Bush’s, said.
Bush’s story is still a sensitive and traumatic situation for him, but he has grown comfortable enough to talk more about it. He still aims to be “that light in people’s lives.” He tried to be as open as possible. Through it all, he knows that he is still alive for a purpose.