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Youth Fights Cancer with Faith

Local Leukemia Survivor Raises Funds for Ill Friends

By Candace Morrow Contributing Writer | 8/30/2013, 2:46 p.m.

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André McCoy

André McCoy is a believer.

The 14-year-old confronted a rare type of leukemia and beat it.

“I had to stay positive,” said McCoy of Collier Heights in Atlanta. “With my family behind me, I knew I could beat it.”

McCoy was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2006.

He had just turned age 6 and begun playing little league football.

A freak accident on the field landed McCoy in the hospital for a potential broken arm. However, a high fever caught doctors’ attention, which led to blood work, and CAT and MRI scans.

“You couldn’t physically see that André had this cancer,” said his mother, Monica Lucas-Leflore. “When we hear cancer, we think the worst. Our family had to allow ourselves to go through the emotional side of it. Then we rolled up our sleeves and got busy.”

In and out of the hospital for an entire year, André was a little boy of much determination, his mother said.

“At every appointment, he was determined to remain upbeat and uplifted,” she said.

After a year, he was in remission, but two years later, he still had to undergo full courses of chemotherapy and radiation to ensure he remained cancer-free.

Along with Lucas-Leflore’s insurance, McCoy received financial assistance from the American Cancer Society, the Supplemental Security Income program and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) to cover treatments.

LLS serves as the world’s largest voluntary health agency dedicated to blood cancer.

Its Georgia chapter, which is based in Atlanta, recognized McCoy as one of its “honored heroes” this year for his willpower to survive leukemia.

Today, he serves as a voice for the organization’s Pennies for Patients Campaign.

“Into our 16th year, Pennies for Patients is part of our School and Youth Programs,” said Javier De Jesus, LLS Georgia marketing manager. “The programs give students like André the opportunity to help raise awareness and funds in honor of local patients battling a blood cancer like leukemia. By collecting spare change, youth involved with the programs have raised more than $211 million nationally for research and patient services.”

During the 2012-2013 academic year, 783 Georgia schools participated in the campaign and raised more than $663,000 for the society.

“Every penny counts,” McCoy said. “I visit churches and talk to classmates about my experience. Leukemia affected my whole family, but by faith, we got through it.”

A ninth-grader at B.E.S.T. Academy in Atlanta, McCoy’s favorite subject is science, especially conducting experiments.

He also continues to play football as quarterback and wide receiver. Off the field, he enjoys spending time with his sister, Ayana Lucas.

“I always made sure André and Ayana spent time together during this whole experience,” said their mother. “If it were not for our strong, family, friends and faith, we would not have made it.”

To learn more about LLS and its Pennies for Patients programs, visit schoolandyouth.org or call 404-720-7843.