Photo Courtesy of Joe Black ’18 – At the age of five, Joe Black had to overcome cancer through roughly two years of chemotherapy.
By Matthew Zacher ’18
Joe Black ’18 was diagnosed with cancer at age five and underwent two years of chemotherapy during which he was unable to walk.
The cancer was discovered when Black was jumping on the trampoline with his cousins and landed on his back.
“I landed on my back, and then my legs didn’t move,” Black said.
Black was diagnosed with Stage 1 Leukemia, a cancer attacking his white blood cells.
Because of his young age, Black said he was confused and scared.
“I didn’t really know what cancer was,” he said. “The only thing I knew was that I was sick.”
Sebastien Ribikare ’18 went to kindergarten with Black at Our Lady of Perpetual Hope and was friends with him at his time of diagnosis.
“I knew that he had cancer,” Ribikare said, “but, I didn’t know that it was life-threatening. I just did what everyone told me to do – pray for Joe.”
Ribikare said that he and his class felt they had a responsibility to help Black.
“Joe was one of us, we cared about him,” he said. “We would visit him, and when he was able to attend school, we would just support him in any way we could.”
Black could not walk for two or three years while battling cancer, but once the cycle was over, he said the way he felt was “gracious.”
“After finishing it, you’re done,” he said. “I don’t have to keep going in four times a week, seeing the same doctor saying, ‘we are going to have you here for four hours and just give you chemo.’”
Black said it was a relief to stop having to talk about cancer, but instead talk about normal things like football.
Mr. Steve Smith ’96 taught Black freshman English, and said that Black is very mature for his age.
“He is almost zen,” he said. “He never seems to get stressed out at all and always has a smile on his face.”
He said that Black’s maturity set him apart from the typically nervous freshman class.
“After you survive cancer, who cares about anything?” Mr. Smith said. “All these little small details like quiz scores or not getting the girl you want; he is almost like a monk.”
Looking back, Black said that his battle with cancer has changed his outlook on life.
“Ten years ago, I wasn’t even walking,” he said. “People are always talking about how they are super upset or saying ‘it’s like the worst thing ever.’ During football workouts, I always think, ‘It could be much worse.’”
Mr. Smith said that a lot of who Black is comes from his struggle with cancer.
“He is so calm and he is so impressive as a human being, and I would think a lot of it is from something that brought him near death.”