Community supports Vinemont student diagnosed with leukemia

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Left to right are Wendy Smithson, Walker Smithson and Drennon Smithson Jr. (Wendy Walker Smithson / Facebook)

VINEMONT, Ala. – The Cullman County community is rallying around Vinemont student Walker Smithson, 14, who was recently diagnosed with leukemia.

According to Smithson’s family, after feeling lethargic and running fevers for weeks, Smithson tested positive for mono and strep. His doctor reviewed his bloodwork which showed a very high white blood cell count and suggested the family visit Children’s Hospital. There Walker was diagnosed with leukemia.

There are two main types of acute leukemia: Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) which starts in cells that become lymphocytes. About 80% of childhood leukemia cases are this type; Acute myelocytic leukemia (AML) begins in early myeloid cells. These are cells that become white blood cells (other than lymphocytes), red blood cells or platelet-making cells.

In a Facebook post Wednesday, Drennon Smithson, Walker Smithson’s father, said, “…We had been waiting on results as to whether the cancer was ‘AML’ or ‘ALL.’ With AML, he would have undergone a 6 month ‘sprint’ treatment at the hospital and would not have been able to come home during that time. The treatment for AML is harsh. We were thankful to hear he has ‘ALL’ instead, which will result in the ‘marathon’ treatment for 3 years. He is considered to be in the ‘high risk’ category due to his age. The first year of treatment will be weekly and fairly intense/aggressive, then he will receive 2 more years of treatment afterwards (this is called the maintenance phase). The good news is the spread out chemo will not be quite as hard on his fragile body as the AML treatment would have been, and he will get to spend more time at home instead of the hospital.”

The Smithson family has received an outpouring of support from the community. An account at Hometown Bank has been set up under “Walker Smithson” to assist with medical, food and transportation costs.

Vinemont Middle School has set up a donation drive and will be collecting items for Walker Smithson through this Friday, Sept. 9. Donation suggestions, according to a list published by the school, are get-well cards, PlayStation gift cards, restaurant gift cards, gas cards, plain crackers, chips (small individual packs), peanut butter crackers, card games, Chapstick, wipes, lotion, pre-packaged cookies, writing journal, coloring pages, colored pencils, pajamas (adult M/L), ball caps, gum, hard candy, mints, toboggans, activity books, blankets, travel pillows, fuzzy socks, gloves, slippers, pudding cups, Jell-O cups and fruit cups. For more details, contact the school at 256-739-1943.

A GoFundMe account has been set up for the family and can be accessed at https://tinyurl.com/WalkerSmithson.

Mom Wendy Smithson shared, “Walker has been a trooper since the second he found out he had cancer. He has taken everything way better than me and his dad! We are completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of love, support and prayers from our local community, as well as others from all over who have reached out to let us know they are alongside us for the duration of this journey. We are humbled and blessed to have this much support.”

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