Former student finds support in alma mater



This ugly phenomenon seems to affect almost everyone in some way, whether he or she has a relative, close friend or even co-worker with the disease. Still, when cancer enters the lives of people close to home, it is often met with shock and denial.

Tanner Norton, a 2013 graduate of Duncan High School, was recently diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL). According to the National Cancer Institute, NHL is defined as “any of a large group of cancers of lymphocytes (white blood cells).”

Norton originally noticed something was wrong when his body reacted strangely after a workout. His immediate reaction was to call his uncle, who is an oncologist, and he advised Norton to have it checked out.

On Aug. 18, Norton got out of his first day of class and went to Stillwater Medical Center. An ultrasound revealed a blood clot. In order to find the cause of the clot, Norton was scheduled for a CT scan. The scan showed a mass in Norton’s chest, and he made the decision to get treated by his uncle in Arkansas.

“I’d say when I found out about it I wasn’t really scared,” Norton said. “I think my mindset was more of ‘all right let’s do this.’ Just getting ready for the fight.”

Norton wouldn’t have to fight alone, though. When fellow graduate and friend since first grade Kaitlyn Wright heard about his diagnosis, she immediately knew she would want to visit him, so she planned on making a trip on the weekend of Sept. 20. However, the trip got unexpectedly pushed up to the preceding Wednesday when Norton’s mom decided to pick Wright up on her way back from a few days working in Duncan  his mom spends most of her time in Arkansas with Norton.

“He had no clue,” Wright said.

Wright made the visit in an effort to lift his spirits, but it seems Norton has had that effect on her as well.

“I knew he would do good [with the situation],” Wright said, “but he constantly amazes me with how he handled it.”

Wright knows she can help and support Norton by being a great friend to him in this time, but many students want to know how they can help, too.

“There are fundraisers everywhere,” says Wright. “Also just showing support by wearing the shirts and bracelets as a visual support, but mainly praying.”

Norton has chosen to fight back against the disease in his body through chemotherapy treatments. However, these treatments aren’t free. The good news is that he is not alone. Students and faculty have risen up to the occasion and dared to ask the question, “How can we help?”

Walking the hallways now, it is not unlikely to be met with at least a dozen “Team Tanner” shirts or backpacks pinned with green ribbons (the color for NHL). Visual support can be seen everywhere, and all in an effort to help Norton in his fight.

“It’s amazing,” Norton said. “Just to see the way people have come together shows a lot about Duncan and the people. I couldn’t be more thankful for the support.”

One particular style of T-shirt has a superman-esque T (for Tanner) on the front and the words “No one fights alone” on the back. The person in charge of the design and selling of the shirts is junior Meagan Taylor.

Norton was Taylor’s senior crush when she first entered high school.

“Later on, we actually became really good friends, and we hung out,” Taylor said.

She also said that Norton was always there to listen to her; he would give her advice and help calm her down when she was angry.

“I thought since he was always so nice to me, I could do this for him,” Taylor said.

All of the proceeds go to help Norton, and that number comes to an impressive total of over $800. Taylor was proud to help such a good friend.

“He taught me to have a positive attitude no matter what,” Taylor said. “He’s been through a lot, and he always has a smile on his face.”

No one ever expects cancer to enter their lives, but when it does, a person has two options: to be overwhelmed and defeated or to accept the challenge and fight back. Norton has chosen the latter, and continues to be an inspiration.

“I know God has a plan for me and will be with me through it all, and that this is in my life for a reason,” Norton said. “I’ve seen a ton of good things come from it, so I wouldn’t change it for anything.”