Josh May, 16, and his parents climbed into their 1997 Ford Escort at 3 a.m. this morning, pulled onto Highway 50 and headed east from their Stagecoach home toward Salt Lake City for Josh's chemotherapy treatment.
The trip, which will take them about 8 or 9 hours, is one of many such trips for Josh and his family, as doctors recommend chemotherapy for Josh every 21 days. The medicine will be administered Tuesday with a long needle into a plastic port in his chest.
"I'm gonna be doped up big time," he explained Saturday over the phone. "They put me to sleep."
But the experience will be nothing new for Josh, who has been sick since he noticed a bump on his left hand two years ago.
"I'm always hungry after I wake up from surgery," he said. "I have to fast the day before." Although he'd like a real meal the nurses give him only ice to suck on.
After Josh, who was a student at Silver Sage High School, noticed the bump on his hand in 2000, he showed it to his mother, Barbara Fleming. She figured it was a blister until it continued to grow.
Josh explained what happened when they showed it to doctors.
"They radiated it and it spread to my wrist. Then I had a choice. I could either lose my hand or get blood poisoning. I didn't want blood poisoning, so I said, 'take it.'"
Josh's left hand and forearm were amputated in late November 2001. Until then, he had been left-handed.
Not that it has slowed him down. "I hit a golf ball in my back yard yesterday," he beamed. "Did you see that movie "Happy Gilmore?" How he runs up to the ball and hits it? That's what I did with one hand!"
He said he must have hit it more than 100 yards -- almost over two fences.
"I wasn't trying to hit it that hard. But I guess my strength just overpowered the club."
His mom is impressed by his positive outlook despite the tumors in his arm, lungs and brain.
"He's a vibrant young man with a good attitude," she said.
One of the only things that saddens Josh is having to miss school.
"I like school. School is cool," he said. "I miss my friends."
His mother says they decided to start chemotherapy treatment now, after the holiday season, in order for Josh to be at home for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
"We were given the option of starting treatment back in September, after he lost part of his lung," she explained. But after being split up for Thanksgiving in 2001, the family opted to wait.
"We decided to keep him through the holidays. What's done is done -- the cancer had already spread through his body so we just figured we should spend the holidays together."
As well as time with her family, Josh's mom is glad to have the support of the community -- especially in helping with the costs of Josh's treatment.
"The LDS Church did a really good fund-raiser for us back in October," she said. "That covered a lot of the bills that had backed up then, but now we're really starting over. I'm not sure how much chemotherapy costs, but I know it's expensive."
She also thanked Lahontan Medical Center for helping Josh, and the Kiwanis group.
"They're working on a little something to help us defer the cost of the trips we have to take for Josh's treatment," she said. Another expense the cost of a home nurse who'll give Josh his immune-booster injections and care for the port in his chest.
But while she appreciates the support of community groups, she says it's Josh who really carries the load.
"He's touched a lot of lives, but in the end, it's him that's going through it. He's a good strong spirit," she said. "He thinks he can whip this thing."
YOU CAN HELP
A trust account has been established in Josh May's name at the Nevada State Bank. The account number is 0530026657. Call Nevada State Bank at (775) 841-2121.