Plymouth’s Arnold first youth ACS event honorary survivor


CURRENTLY IN REMISSION from leukemia, Mitch Arnold, shown with his parents John and Francine has been named co-honorary survivor for the American Cancer Society Road America Walk/Run to be held Oct. 24. — Submitted photo CURRENTLY IN REMISSION from leukemia, Mitch Arnold, shown with his parents John and Francine has been named co-honorary survivor for the American Cancer Society Road America Walk/Run to be held Oct. 24. — Submitted photo When you’re a 10-and-a-half-year-old boy, your biggest concerns should be whether the Red Sox will have a winning season. And recess. It should not be whether cancer is going to end your life before you even reach your teens.

In 2011, that was the stark reality facing Mitch Arnold, of Plymouth. He was finishing fourth grade at St. John the Baptist Catholic School when he and his parents, John and Francine, noticed worrisome symptoms.

Mitch was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). What made the diagnosis even more devastating was that the cancer sub type was Philadelphia Positive, which has an extremely low survival rate.

“When I was diagnosed, all I could think was, ‘Am I going to die?’” Mitch said.

His treatment plan was intensely aggressive, requiring high doses of intravenous and oral chemotherapy. Throughout the two years and eight months, Mitch spent 184 nights in the hospital due to complications— repeated bouts of pneumonia, bone infections and dangerously high fevers—causing him to miss a year and a half of school. It threw the family into a tailspin.

“It’s not something any parent ever wants to experience,” said Francine. “We just took it one day at time.” They owe Mitch’s survival to a clinical trial of a new drug.

“Mitch is living proof of the value of research and clinical trials,” John said. The drug he received has effectively increased the survival rate for Philadelphia Positive ALL from 20 percent to nearly 88 percent, he explained.

Today, Mitch, a 14-year-old Plymouth High School freshman, is 18 months out from completing treatment and is in remission. Checkups every two months monitor his iron levels and potential late effects from chemo. “I’m healthy and I feel good, although I did miss a year of sports and I’m trying to catch up.”

The American Cancer Society Road America Walk/ Run has added a kid’s fun run this year, making it especially appropriate to have named Mitch as co-honorary survivor (with Plymouth’ s Karen Rhyan) and the first youth to have the designation. He and his parents are excited to use his role to promote funding pediatric cancer research.

“Despite an estimated 10,380 new cases of cancer in children this year, the National Cancer Institute devotes less than 4 percent of its budget toward pediatric cancer research, and in the last 20 years, only three cancer medications have been specifically developed for children,” John said. “These statistics speak to the dire need for increased funding to fight pediatric cancer.”

For more information and to register for the American Cancer Society Road America Walk/Run, visit hittheroadrun.org.


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