March First brings a first for Romanczuk

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Features Editor

Feb. 28, 2001 10 PM

March First is a very important and most special day in the life of Anthony Romanczuk.

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One year ago today, his body was given a whole new life and today he will celebrate his new life.

"The outside me is 10 years old, but the inside me is one-year-old today," Anthony said with a bright smile.

The Troy Elementary School student will celebrate the first birthday anniversary of his life-saving bone marrow transplant with family and friends, knowing how blessed he is.

A bout with pneumonia at Christmas put Anthony back in a Mobile hospital where he was first treated for leukemia.

"When Anthony was in the Mobile hospital three years ago, he

made three very special friends," said Jan Rascoe, Anthony’s foster grandmother. "Two of those friends died and Anthony was very sadden to learn about their deaths. However, he was excited that he would be able to hear about his other friend at Women’s and Children’s Hospital."

The news was not good. Anthony’s little friend had died.

"Anthony is the only one of that group of friends to have survived," Rascoe said.

"That makes us even more aware of the miracle that has happened in Anthony’s life. Steve (Rascoe, Jan’s husband) and I told him that is all the more reason for us to know that God has something very special planned for him. Every day we are thankful and every day is a celebration of life. But, today is very special because it is the first anniversary birthday of his new life."

Anthony was diagnosed with leukemia three years ago. At first the treatments were successful, but he was in and out of remission. Then, in January 2000, the diagnosis was devastating. Anthony would have to have a bone marrow transplant and his chances were no better than 50-50.

To receive the bone marrow transplant, he underwent weeks of preliminary evaluation and treatment, including several rounds of chemotherapy and five days of intensive radiation.

"Every white blood cell in his body had to be killed," Rascoe said. "He had to reach ground zero where no white blood cells were alive that could infect the healthy bone marrow once it was introduced into his body. To receive the bone marrow transplant, they had to almost kill Anthony physically. Essentially, a whole new body was being given to him. That’s why today is such a reason to celebrate."

The transplant was followed by months of pain and sickness.

"For a while, Anthony couldn’t lift his head off the pillow and he couldn’t even chew ice," Rascoe said. "It was a wait-and-see situation. There was no way of knowing if his body would accept the transplant. And even if it did, there could be side effects and there was always the possibility of complications."

Through all of the pain, nausea and vomiting, Anthony’s will had to be maintained

"When he improved to a point that he could sit in a wheelchair, he would often say he just wanted to stay in bed," Rascoe said. "Steve didn’t give him that option. He told Anthony if he didn’t get up he would just lie there and die. We couldn’t let him lose his will."

Anthony’s will weakened, but never broke.

One proud day, he came home.

Since being released from the hospital, Anthony has had several setbacks but has bounced back from them almost immediately and that’s a positive sign, Rascoe said.

He’s back in school and loves every minute of it. He’s able to ride his bike and

do other "fun" things. But, he isn’t going to be able to do the thing he wanted most – play baseball.

But, he is going to be involved as an "assistant" to Ashley Floyd, coach of Royals of the Troy summer recreation league. For now, that’s good enough for Anthony. He is very optimistic about his future, because his new physical life is coupled with a new spiritual one.

"Anthony was intrigued by a speaker at our church, Park Memorial," Rascoe said. "One night, he went to the altar and, on the way home, he said ‘Nana, tonight I’m going to sit on the edge of my bed and ask Jesus to come into my life some more.’ Jesus gave Anthony new life physically and now spiritually."

The miracles that have been worked in Anthony’s life are the result of the prayers of his church family and the community that so lovingly surrounds him and through the grace of God.

"Looking back over the past year, we are reminded of all the wonderful blessings we have received on behalf of Anthony," Rascoe said. "We want to thank God for allowing him to make it through this ordeal and the many people throughout the community who have been so supportive. We will always be grateful for the prayers, cards, calls and gifts that were shared.

"We face each new day knowing that God has a very special purpose for Anthony’s life. We just want to say thank you to everyone for helping to brighten dark and painful days for a special little boy."