VIDEO: Battery Creek High cancer survivor plans new adventure

emoody@beaufortgazette.comMarch 2, 2014 

Kenneth Poole of Beaufort was 13 and running track when he felt a pain in his leg.

He thought he had shin splints.

Instead, doctors discovered a 6-inch-long tumor.

So began a harrowing ordeal of chemotherapy and new surgery in a fight against bone cancer. There were 130 days in the hospital and 800 hours of chemotherapy.

He was wheelchair bound for a time, and now, at 16, the Battery Creek High student still needs crutches to walk. But after more than a year of treatment, he's cancer-free.

Through it all, he stayed active.

He never wanted to be the "cancer kid."

So he never acted like one.

"When he was still in a wheelchair, bald-headed and 80 pounds, barely done with his treatment, we let him go for a week with the church on a float trip," his father, Ken Poole, said. "He went white-water rafting and mountain climbing."

Kenneth talked his doctors into removing his chest port -- an implanted catheter that delivers medicine into a vein -- eight months early so he could go on the trip just two days after surgery.

The doctors had wanted to leave it in for a full year, Ken Poole said.

He returned to Battery Creek High School, joined the Marine Corps JROTC, hunted enough game to feed his family for more than a year and played in the school marching band while another student pushed his wheelchair.

"I want to get as much done as possible, to see as much as I can, to do as much as I can," he said.

Now celebrating 18 months cancer free, Kenneth has so much energy it's difficult to pin him down -- or get him to clean his room.

"For a kid who can't walk, he is more active than some athletes are," Ken Poole said.

"And when it comes to his appetite, I swear, I can't keep up with the groceries on that child," his mother, Jennifer Poole, said. "He eats more than both of us combined. He eats three plates of dinner a night."

Kenneth, like many teenage boys, skims over some details when telling his story, so his parents fill in the gaps.

How he almost died three times from anaphylactic shock, for instance.

Or how his parents decided to accompany him on his trip to Hawaii with the Make-A-Wish Foundation -- a nonprofit program that arranges experiences for children with life-threatening illnesses -- before Kenneth finished treatment, just in case something went wrong.

But that attitude is typical of their son, they say.

"When I was going through it, I wasn't worried about the actual treatment," Kenneth said. "I was worried about what can I do when I get out of the hospital. What fun can I have when I get out. I never worried about the actual stuff. Because if you worry about the actual stuff, it makes it worse. Instead, you think about what you're going to do when you get done."

In addition to a long list of school activities that will grace his college applications, Kenneth intends to earn a forensic science or criminal justice degree and pursue a law-enforcement career. He's now preparing to embark on a trip to Australia in June with the People to People Ambassador Program.

The trip with the organization involves 21 days of traveling, meeting government officials and Aborigines, studying sea life with a marine biologist, and visiting the Sydney Opera House, the Great Barrier Reef and a working farm, among other activities.

"A lot of people when they go to other countries, they don't get to meet all these people and do all these things that, going with this group, we're going to be able to do," he said.

"And that just made me want to go because I can't sit still. I want to do everything in my power I can."

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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