- Associated Press - Sunday, August 16, 2015

DOTHAN, Ala. (AP) - In a scene likely to play out in living rooms around the Wiregrass last week, Alicia Lokey helped her son Conner straighten his hair and ensured that his belt was on correctly as he prepared for his first day of school.

It’s the normal that’s out of the ordinary for the Lokeys as they adjust to Conner’s recovery from leukemia. Heading back to school - and a little gentle motherly correction - is part of that process.

“When they’re sick they become the center of the universe,” she said. “Now that he’s better, he has to realize I’m the adult and he’s the child.”

Conner Lokey hasn’t been to class in two years, having struggled with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, commonly referred to as T-cell ALL, since relapsing in 2013 from an earlier bout with the disease. Conner was originally diagnosed with leukemia when he was three years old. With aggressive chemotherapy treatment, Conner was in remission quickly and continued treatment, including full cranial radiation and chemotherapy, kept him in remission for about two years.

Unfortunately, when he was 8, Conner relapsed. In December 2013, Conner’s condition became dire as he fell ill with fungal, viral, and bacterial conditions. He was placed in a medically-induced coma for 74 days and doctors said his chance of recovery was very small.

Conner survived, gradually getting better and reaching new milestones like the one he hit on Aug. 11, returning to school at Northside Methodist Academy. Conner was tested to see which grade level would be most appropriate for him, and he did well enough to rejoin children his own age in fifth grade.

While Lokey has a 10-year-old’s normal reservations about school - he says he likes it “about 50-50” - he did say he was excited to return.

“Very, actually, considering I missed two years,” he said.

Conner speaks calmly and maturely about his illness and his recovery. He said he remembers strange, vivid dreams during his coma.

“I woke up one day but I was still dying,” he said. “I was getting better though, because I woke up.”

When Conner arrived at Northside on Aug. 11, he had a regular welcome. He went to his class, was shown his seat and began participating in classroom activities.

Northside Methodist Academy Marketing Director Lisa Batchelor said the students at the school were thrilled at Conner’s return, saying it had been the answer to many prayers.

“It’s great for their little hearts,” she said.

Alicia said that she’s pleased with her son’s return to school and her return to work.

“It’s our new normal, we’re never going to go back to normal the way it was, but that’s a good thing because we take nothing for granted,” she said. “We live life like somebody left the gates open every moment.”


Information from: The Dothan Eagle, https://www.dothaneagle.com

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