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Rush Tough: Community rallies as local child fights cancer

BONIFAY – Little did Hanna Elmore and Levi White know that an infected bug bite on their four-year-old son, Rush, would flip their world upside down.  

What began in May as a trip to the emergency room for that bite became an urgent trip to Pensacola where doctors wanted to test Rush’s bone marrow. When the results came back, the family’s life would be forever changed. 

Rush, a former Bonifay K-8 Pre-K student, was diagnosed with B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, the most common type of childhood cancer. Rush began chemotherapy on June 4, currently making weekly trips to Pensacola to receive the treatments. 

This type of leukemia has a survival rate of 95 to 98 percent with the goal of remission in the first 28 days after beginning treatment. Rush will have to continue chemo for two to three years as this type of cancer leaves him susceptible to other kinds as well. 

Elmore says the news took the breath out of her. 

“It was like the doctor was talking, but I couldn’t hear anything that was being said,” she said. “It took a fully week for it to really sink in. We were angry at first, asking God why he gave us this beautiful boy and was then making him sick.” 

Elmore went on to say that after the initial shock, their faith – along with support from their family, friends and community – has helped them make it through the weekly trips to Pensacola for treatment.

Elmore noted although being the parent of a child who has cancer is “a door no parent wants to open,” Rush is dealing with his diagnosis and treatment better than most adults she has seen. 

“There are moments when he is scared, but he is handling everything like a champ,” said Elmore. 

In addition to affecting Rush and his parents, the diagnosis has also made an impact on Kaleb, 10 and Logan, 2. The family now tends to stay inside to reduce the risk of bringing home germs that could be harmful to Rush’s vulnerable immune system.

Elmore says she never thought she would be thankful for COVID-19, but that in a way, she is. “Part of me is thankful for the pandemic,” she said. “There are so many safety guidelines set forth that we can still go to dinner at a restaurant and be six feet away from the next table. These guidelines help Rush from being exposed to certain things that could affect him negatively.” 

Rush’s family says the community outreach has been wonderfully overwhelming, and they are grateful. “Our community has been amazing,” she said. “People you don’t expect to step up, do. This has been a humbling experience, and we are so very thankful for those who have stepped up during this time.” 

A fundraiser fish fry is set to take place at 1 p.m. on July 10 at Grace Fellowship Community Church, 2249 County Road 179 in Caryville. Fried catfish and mullet plates will be sold for $10 with the proceeds going to help defray costs associated with Rush’s medical care and related expenses. 

Supporters may also order a #rushtough candle from www.leighisscents.com100 percent of the proceeds go to Rush and his family. Donations may also be made directly through CashApp using the name $RushTough or through Venmo using the name @RushTough.  

Elmore says she will continue to be an advocate in raising awareness in the community about childhood cancer. 

“There is not enough awareness raised when it comes to childhood cancer,” she said. “I will strive to raise as much awareness as possible because there is not enough when it comes to the children affected.” 

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