By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 1, 2014 1:46 PM
Joshua Paul Weaver, left, and his dad, Wesley, share a laugh as they talk about the 15-year-old being declared cancer-free in January after an eight-month odyssey that included tests, traveling back and forth to Duke for doctor appointments, surgery and six weeks of radiation.
Joshua has been named the Honorary Youth Co-Chairman for the 2014 Relay for Life. Here, he shows one of the signs created for him by family and friends during his cancer battle.
SEVEN SPRINGS -- Eight months ago, he was just another teenager -- a typical 14-year-old looking forward to his first day of high school.
But when a routine eye exam led to a shocking diagnosis, Joshua Paul Weaver's life -- and the lives of his family members -- were forever changed.
The young man thought, perhaps, he needed glasses to fix the double vision that prompted a trip to the doctor.
He had no way of knowing that a tumor was putting pressure on his brain -- that he would be forced to endure surgery and dozens of radiation treatments.
At first, the Weavers tried to shield their son from the prognosis as they tried to process conflicting information that ranged from an inoperable brain tumor to the possibility of cancer.
But Josh's fear subsided when he decided to turn his fate over to a higher power.
"I was scared at first, but then the Lord told me everything's going to be OK," Josh said. "I believed it and just didn't worry anymore."
The young man made it through a five-hour surgery Aug. 27 and, within a week, was released from the hospital.
But his father knew his son was not out of the woods yet.
"We were happy we were home, but we were still afraid because the official results (wouldn't) be in for a few days," he said.
Ultimately, the diagnosis was cancer.
But doctors told the Weavers it was treatable -- that Josh would have to complete six weeks of radiation.
His mother, Heather, who had put her pursuit of a nursing degree on hold, stayed with him at the Ronald McDonald House through it all.
Josh says now that the hardest part was losing his hair -- but that it made him feel good when his father shaved his own head as a symbol of solidarity.
And beyond that act, Josh's spirits were also lifted by a popular gospel hip-hop rap artist, Lacrae.
Perhaps it was his own musical inclination -- he enjoys playing the drums and has aspirations of one day doing his own "freestyle rap" -- that made the music a source of solace.
"He listened to Lacrae every day," Wesley said. "Lacrae became a big part of this healing process because of his lyrics, urban upbeat gospel rap that just really inspired Josh to tell his story."
The radiation proved successful in reducing what turned out to be a malignant tumor.
And as the scar tissue continues to diminish, the teenager's vision is improves.
"I'm blessed," Josh said. "I knew (God) was gonna take care of me. I prayed every night. I just didn't worry. I don't worry a lot."
Now that he is inspired to tell his story, it seems fitting, to the those who love him, that Josh was chosen as this year's Relay For Life honorary youth chairman.
The young man calls the title an honor.
"I'm glad that they chose me to be in Relay. I'm glad that I can help people who do have it worse than I do," he said. "I don't wish it on anybody."
One of his duties at the May 16 event will be to lead the kids walk.
But in the meantime, he continues to live as a typical high school student -- going to classes and maintaining an A/B average.
"August 23, we went to Duke. That was a Friday. Monday he was supposed to start school," his mother said. "Spring Creek set him up online. He didn't miss any school.
"He went through radiation, doctors appointments and all kinds of stuff and still kept up his schoolwork."
Josh also finds himself being invited to speak at churches and to youth groups.
"I'm honored," he said. "I'm glad people want to hear about what happened."
His dad, a former minister, also believes that with their situation came a responsibility.
"We have got to give back," he said. "We didn't get through this just to get through. With cancer, it gives you the opportunity to join up with some other people in a way that's positive.
"I saw what Relay for Life is doing. They're giving people a place to be family. We're going to go through this together."