Washington teen beats leukemia

Published 7:32 pm Thursday, September 14, 2017

In March 2014, Cortyne Woolard took her 10-year-old son to the doctor for what she thought was a normal illness. But almost immediately, her world was turned upside down. The doctor uttered the words no parents would ever want to hear — her son, Sha’Mari Parker, had leukemia.

“What are you supposed to do when they tell you your kid is going to die? It was rough,” Woolard said.

Parker was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia, or ALL, a blood cancer in which the bone marrow produces too many immature white blood cells. It is the most common cancer in children, and while it is curable, it requires months, or years of chemotherapy.

Woolard said Parker had endured chemotherapy since he was diagnosed, totaling almost three years of treatment. There were good and bad days — all filled with moments and emotions that made her entire household stronger. She said while her son hovered near the line of life and death, the whole family matured in the process.

“It changed me a lot. I’m not a mean person, but some people may think I am.

I don’t do a whole lot of smiling, but I got a heart of gold,” Woolard said.

Last month, Woolard said she received news that left her an “emotional wreck” —her son was cleared of cancer on Aug. 17.

Woolard is now planning a carnival to celebrate her son, and she hopes it will be a community event. It’s free for everyone, and will include a carnival, games, food and entertainment.

She said her family — Woolard, Parker and Woolard’s three other children — had been put on hold. Activities arose, but if Parker couldn’t do it, none of them could. The carnival is only part one of a hopefully three-week celebration for her son.

“We’re trying to get his life back on track, and I’m starting out with this carnival,” she said. “I want to keep going with stuff with kids until he gets tired of it … because he’s been without it for a long time. I’m not going to lie, I want him to be like, ‘Mama, I don’t want to do anything else,’” Woolard laughed.

Woolard said during treatment, Parker’s physical state became increasingly weaker; he was loosing weight rapidly and eventually the cancer took his ability to walk on his own. However, he showed little sign of mental weakness throughout the whole process — his attitude remained strong and resilient. Woolard said she was emotional through each step of the process, but her son, through the suffering, remained optimistic.

“I burst out crying, he said, ‘Mama, it’s going be OK.’ Now he’s clear, I’m crying again, and he said, ‘Mama I’m happy.’ He really only cried like two times. He didn’t show any signs of sadness,” Woolard explained.

Woolard said she’s been planning the celebration for months, but kept it under wraps. As soon as the doctor gave her the OK, she went public, and now she can hardly wait for Sunday to arrive.

“I’m overdosed with excitement with that. I poured a lot into it,” Woolard said.

The event is located at 120 Hodges Road in Washington from 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday.