By Missi Blackstock
GREENVILLE – The St. Joseph School community is rallying around one of their own this year, rolling up their sleeves and pulling up to the table. Aries Cotton is a 12-year-old eighth grader at St. Joseph School. At the beginning of the school year, Cotton began having night sweats and loss of appetite. He later passed out during football practice. The doctor did blood work and discovered that he had an abnormal blood count, very low immune system, and a swollen spleen. The doctor referred him to the children’s entomologist/hematologist at Batson Children’s Hospital in Jackson.
On Friday, October 6, 2017, Cotton was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. The following Monday, he underwent surgery to place a chemo-portal in his chest. A biopsy was done on his bone marrow to determine how many cancer cells were present. The results showed 85 percent cancer cells in his bone marrow, but no cancer cells in his brain. Cotton has been cancer-cell-free since December but must continue maintenance chemo for the remainder of the year.
Because Cotton’s cancer includes the Philadelphia Chromosome, the teen must take a costly chemotherapy pill. The Philadelphia chromosome has been known to destroy a patient’s bone marrow, but this damage may be prevented by taking this medication. Funds are being raised to help cover travel and medical expenses during his treatments and recovery. Cotton must travel from one to four days each week to Batson Children’s Hospital for Induction A, sometimes becoming in-patient for days on end. His mother had to give up her job to care for him, finances have been a great strain on the family.
Cotton’s eighth-grade class has held three fund-raisers. They have sold bracelets (which are still for sale for $5 in the front office), #AriesStrong T-shirts as well as hosting a pancake breakfast on Saturday, March 3. The senior class, of which Aries’ brother Reggie is a member, has also held two bake sales. Because of generous donors, 100 percent of all proceeds have been given to the Cotton family.
More than 65 pints of blood have already been donated by St Joseph students, parents and the local community. Anyone wishing to help, may donate at their local Mississippi Blood Services drawing station or any mobile drive by using the code: DQ49 or call the school at 662-378-9711.