HEALTHY AND ACTING: “To Kill a Mockingbird” teenage actor who played Jem cancer free since 2006
Published 3:00 am Saturday, April 25, 2015
Dalton Causey, the cute kid who did an incredible job playing, Jem, in the Troy University production of “To Kill A Mockingbird” April 14-19 at the Trojan Center, has been cancer free for nine years.
Watching him on stage, no one would ever guess that the 13-year-old rising star’s most challenging role has been in the fight against cancer.
Dalton doesn’t remember much about the time he was not cancer free. He remembers going to the hospital on Christmas Day in 2005. He remembers lots of needles and being scared of them. He remembers playing with other sick kids and pulling around an IV pole with a needle stuck in his arm. Sometimes, he would put one foot on the pole stand and push with the other foot to give himself a ride. Burkitt lymphoma was a big word for a little four-year-old boy. He just remembers being “real sick.”
Nikki Causey said Dalton was a healthy little boy until December 2005, when she noticed his jaw was swollen.
“I took him to the dentist and he said it was an abscess,” Causey said. “The dentist first put him on antibiotics and then pulled the tooth but the swelling just kept getting bigger and bigger.”
Dalton was put on another seven days of medications. His parents took him to their family doctor, who gave him different medications and said if he got worse to take him to the emergency room.
“By that time, it was the Friday before Christmas and we wanted so much for Dalton to be well so he could enjoy it,” Causey said. “Christmas morning, he woke up not even remembering it was Christmas and wanted to go back to bed. We got him up and he opened his presents. Then he came down with fever so we took him to Flowers Hospital where they had no luck getting the swelling down.”
Causey said the hospital doctors said Dalton had an infection somewhere but they couldn’t put their hands on it so they sent him to Birmingham.
“When we got to Birmingham, we got the news Dalton had a staph infection. They began treating it but the swelling got bigger and bigger,” Causey said. “After two sinus surgeries, the doctors decided to biopsy it. They said it didn’t look like cancer but there was a small chance. We were thinking positive since it was such a small chance.”
When the diagnosis came, the Causeys were told their young son had Burkitt lymphoma, a form of non-Hodkin’s lymphoma which is recognized as the fastest growing human tumor, but it also fast to react to medication.
“Thank God, Dalton was asleep when we found out it was cancer because we cried and cried,” Causey said. “The cancer was already in the bone marrow, spinal fluid, kidneys, pelvic area and jaw.”
Dalton was started on chemotherapy the next day.
“The doctors didn’t think that I was going to live much longer,” Dalton said. “They thought I would die, but I didn’t. I lived. I’ve been cancer free for nine years. Sometimes I think about what it would be like if I had died. I wonder what it would be like if I was not here. I wonder where I would be.”
Dalton, an eighth grade student at Arriton High School, remembers going to school with a Central line and a feeding tube. He remembers how his friends stood beside him and supported him.
He knows there are other children who are, right now, going through what he went through. He knows they are scared because that’s one memory that stands out clearly in his memory.
So, Dalton and his family participate each year in the annual Light the Night Walk in Dothan, which is a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.
“Except for this year,” he said. “This year, I was being Jem (in To Kill a Mockingbird).”
The young actor knows how important cancer research is and that’s why he supports the American Cancer Society. He also knows how one kid can influence another. He wants to set a good example for others to follow because “you never know where it will lead.”
Four years ago, Dalton went to the We Piddle Around Theater in Brundidge to see Georgia Galloway, a schoolmate and friend, perform in “Come Home, It’s Suppertime.”
“I liked the play and wanted to be in it,” Dalton said. “I tried out and got a part and I’ve been in it now for three years. I also played Opie in a play about Andy Griffith in Rocky Head.”
Last summer, Dalton attended Spotlight Camp at Troy University on a scholarship and director Tori Lee Averett invited him to audition for the part of Jem.
“Now, I wonder what I would be doing if I had not gone to see Georgia in the play,” he said. “I like being on stage. It’s a real good feeling when we take our bows and thank the audience for coming. Then, the people in the audience clap and stand up and thank us. Maybe I’ll be an actor. I don’t know for sure.
What Dalton does know is that he is nine years cancer free and, for that, he has saved his biggest bow and his most heartfelt “thank you.”