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Diabetic student shaped by leukemia sufferer with same name
by David Leone
WAKE FOREST — Rashawn King is a seventh-grader trying to deal with issues surrounding diabetes. And Rashawn King is a college freshman who has struggled to live with leukemia, currently in remission.
They’re not related, but the two Rashawn Kings met May 13 at Heritage Middle School so the elder King could provide some inspiration for his younger counterpart.
They talked at first, with the N.C. Central basketball shooting guard showing the younger Rashawn pictures of some of the famous people he’s met through the Make-A-Wish foundation, including basketball stars LeBron James and Dwayne Wade. College King’s fight with cancer was well publicized and he got to hang out with some of his heroes along the way.
The two Kings went outside and shot some one-on-one hoops, with the younger Rashawn edging out his elder.
“Next time, I’ll bring my A-game,” the elder King promised.
Outside, they ran into Heritage Middle Principal Chris McCabe. McCabe and the elder King go way back — to Smith Elementary School, where McCabe was his principal.
“I absolutely remember him and followed him with his success at Middle Creek High School with the leukemia,” said McCabe, referring to King’s return to playing football in high school — even after he got sick. “He was pretty successful at Middle Creek as a football player, with his battling leukemia and his success on the field.”
And King’s visit to the younger Rashawn at Heritage is especially important.
“It’s great to be a role model, great to give someone encouragement when they’re going through some similar life struggles,” said McCabe. “And it gives a kid hope too, when they go through some tough times, to see someone come through something very similar.
“It shows him that there’s people that care, not only Rashawn taking the time to come out here, but the staff taking the time to make the connection to try to make that happen.”
The meeting was facilitated by school nurse Julie Doyle, who helps the youth with his blood sugar testing and guides him to use a computer to count his carbohydrates before eating.
After basketball, they went inside for lunch from McDonald’s. McDonald’s and some other national chains provide nutrition details online, making it easier for diabetics to judge their meals.
“It’s a lifetime challenge for diabetics,” Doyle said.
“Back when I was going through school, I had to do that too,” the elder King said.
The 13-year-old was diagnosed with diabetes in 2007. He’s pretty much used to managing his condition, but it was tough at the start. “It’s easier now,” he said about testing his blood sugar. “I have a pump now.”
The elder King had a real tough go with leukemia as well. He was diagnosed in 2010 with an incredibly high white blood cell count. The usually good white blood cells were killing off the cells that regulated disease in his body.
Caught just in time, Rashawn was admitted into intensive care for blood transfusions without anesthesia, which was very painful, he said.
He had a regimen of chemotherapy pills, making him feel sick all the time and causing him to miss his first semester of school in his senior year. But he proved unstoppable.
“I played football and basketball. I was determined to get out there and show people if I could do it, anyone could do it,” he said.
Though the leukemia is in remission, he still undergoes injections once a month at the hospital. He doesn’t let it faze him.
“You have got to learn how to stay positive. Don’t let anything keep you down,” he said.
The benefits of the meeting were not all one-sided, either. The 6-foot-tall college freshman isn’t looking for a career in basketball. He’s a business major, with a minor in communications and already has his sights set on a career in public speaking — hopefully to help kids the way he’s helping the younger Rashawn King.
“I want to write books,” he said.
As for the younger Rashawn, he didn’t say much about the visit, but appeared pleased to meet his older namesake and learn about his success.
“It made me feel like an all-star,” he said.