Stroke of pain produces true golf warrior

An early morning of madness turned his life around. It’s 1 a.m. and he’s screaming in agonizing pain, a pain ignored by his past roommates in Palmetto South. But a pain that doctors would later diagnose as Leukemia.

Florida A&M University golf player Elijah Jackson, 19, said the back pains came out of nowhere last February. The persistent pains made him a regular in the emergency room at least four nights out of a week. When he went back to his hometown of Streetsboro, Ohio, in May, he got diagnosed with the cancer and began treatment.

“When they told me [I had it] I didn’t even know what it was so I was confused and wondering if it was bad,” said Jackson in quiet tones. “There was no fear. The doctors were straightforward. I didn’t want to feel like a victim. I gained a better respect for life, and the illnesses that people go through that they have no control of.”

Jackson, as a freshman, had just found a family in his golf teammates. Jackson played football as a high school student but lost interest once his father introduced him to golf.

“It’s a challenge to me; it keeps me coming back and I will not stop until I’ve mastered the game,” Jackson said about his love for golf.

He recalls one game in which his crippling pain caused him to lie on the ground in between shots. A few teammates jokingly said it was his worst game, but Jackson asserted that a score of 81 was “good” for someone in dire pain.

“I would bend over to hit the ball and I was shaking uncontrollably. My mind was on the pain, but I couldn’t give up for my teammates,” said Jackson, who sat out the last three games of the season.

According to, Leukemia is a cancer of the bone marrow and blood, in which a cell in the bone marrow undergoes a leukemic change. After the change, the cell multiplies into many cells and begins to outnumber the normal cells. In 2008, the disease was expected to strike 44, 270 lives, and end 21,710 of them.

The biology student’s cancer is now in remission. He takes medication daily, and shows no signs of the chemotherapy treatment. He lost no hair and has no visible skin irritations or blemishes. His mother Tori Washington said, although the worst part over, she was proud of her son’s resilience.

Jackson’s teammate James Petty, 23, a fourth year business administration and economics student from Grand Blanc, Mich., said Jackson’s experience taught him a lesson.

“Every hole [in golf] is a battle; it’s a challenge and so is life,” Petty said.   “Elijah showed us that anything is possible, facing something so scary so young, bravely.”

Jackson is reminded that everyday is a gift.

“Leukemia took over my life for a short period of time, but I’m back,” Jackson said. “I’m healthy and I’m ready to be the missing wheel that my team was missing last season.”

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