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At 2, he was diagnosed with cancer. Now, he’s a West Hall student and football player
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West Hall freshman Daniel Standridge survived cancer as a child and today plays football for the Spartans. - photo by Scott Rogers

Two days after his second birthday, Daniel Standridge’s parents brought him to the doctor’s office for a routine checkup. Moments later, they would be on their way to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta - Egleston Hospital. 

After performing a series of tests, the doctor and nurse walked in and broke the news to Daniel’s parents. 

“I just remember (the doctor) coming into the office, and he told us that his blood counts were low,” said Daniel’s mom, Carrie. 

“I had no idea what that meant,” his dad, Jesse, said. 

“I looked at (the nurse) and said, ‘Are you talking about cancer?’” Carrie said. “And she said, ‘Yeah.’ We left that morning just in — it was a blur.”

On Sept. 25, 2009, Daniel was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, a fast-growing cancer that begins in the bone marrow, where new blood cells are formed. 

And as if that news hadn’t hit them hard enough, Daniel’s parents were hit with another body blow: They also discovered that their 2-year-old son had Trisomy 21 Down Syndrome, though Daniel shows no physical signs. 

The hospital soon became their “second home,” where Daniel underwent six rounds of chemotherapy. For the first couple rounds, he had to be given eye drops every two to three hours to protect his eyes from the effects of the drug. 

“They would have to come in and wake him up,” Carrie said. “And we'd have to hold him down.”

“As a mom,” she paused, her voice quivering and her eyes welling up. “As a mom, having to hold your child down and him begging you to make it stop, it’s hard.”

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Daniel Standridge was diagnosed with cancer at 2 and today attends high school at West Hall.

After an aggressive first round of treatment, doctors performed a bone marrow biopsy and found that Daniel was essentially cancer free, though his final round of chemo would not come until March 2010. 

Carrie remembers that moment clearly. 

“I just started crying, and the doctor gave me a hug,” she said. When the doctor walked out, she called her husband and relayed the good news. “He's like, ‘Is everything OK?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, the cancer is gone. There's no sign of cancer.’” 

After hanging up the phone, Carrie took a moment to herself. 

“I just sat and prayed and thanked the Lord for touching him,” she said. 

Some 12 years later, Daniel’s mom grabs his arm on the bleachers and searches for the faint scar that apparently is a sign of his Down syndrome. She can barely find it. That scar is practically the only thing that marks Daniel from his peers. 

Now 14 years old, Daniel is a freshman at West Hall High School and plays as a linebacker and tight end on the football team. Like many older brothers, his younger sister annoys him no end. And like many students, his favorite class, science, is the one where the teacher doesn’t assign any homework. After high school, he hopes to pursue a career in criminal justice. 

September is childhood cancer awareness month in the Hall County School District. Daniel was named the team captain for the cancer awareness game for the West Hall High Spartans. 

Such a sight was almost unthinkable more than a decade ago, his mom said. 

“Proud is an understatement,” Carrie said. “Honestly, I sat in the crowd and watched him and I was bawling like a baby. Because 12 years ago I didn't know if that would even be possible. So just watching him do what he loves and be able to do it, it just made my heart swell up with pride.” 

The Standridges each have “beads of courage” from their hospital stays. Each color represents a step in treatment. Yellow, for instance, represents an overnight stay in the hospital. One bead in particular makes the Standridges’ necklaces unique: a little red car. 

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Daniel Standridge survived cancer as a young child and today attends high school at West Hall and plays on the football team. - photo by Ben Anderson

It signifies the movie Daniel would watch day after day in the hospital — “Cars.” 

“If I don’t watch ‘Cars’ again, I’d be happy,” Jesse joked. 

“They made him a special bead,” Carrie said, adding that each of the five nurses who cared for Daniel got one as well. One of the nurses also brought Daniel a stuffed animal, named after his favorite character, the rusty tow truck, Mater. 

When Daniel started to lose his hair, his dad shaved his head in solidarity. The nurse brought them a set of clippers, then left the room. After Daniel’s head was shaved, he helped his dad shave his. 

“It was a challenging time, but I believe it brought us closer together as a family,” Jesse said. “It does one of two things, and when we’ve seen it in the hospital. It either brings a family closer — or it breaks them apart,” Carrie said. 

Two weeks before that fateful visit to the doctor’s office, Daniel’s parents attended a St. Jude benefit singing. 

“I turned around and looked at him,” Carrie said, “And I said, ‘I don't see how these parents do this. I don't know what I would do if my kid was ever diagnosed with cancer.’” 

Now the Standridges hope to use Daniel’s story to spread awareness and inspire others. And while Daniel’s parents have told his story many times, he is now telling it himself. 

Daniel is among the many students participating in the Georgia Laws of Life Essay Contest. His law is one of perseverance, and when asked what his essay was about, he put it simply. 

“Twelve years later, I’m here. I'm living,” he said. “I’m on the football team.” 

“My story is about how I never gave up,” he said. “I beat cancer.” 

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West Hall freshman Daniel Standridge survived cancer as a child and today plays football for the Spartans. - photo by Scott Rogers
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