Leukemia may have kept John Roush (far right) from school and his friends since his diagnosis in May, but it wasn’t going to spoil the drive-by 7th birthday celebration he shared with his twin brother Donald (left), as the Wesley Chapel community turned out in force out to wish the boys well from a distance.

Robert Roush knew a traditional birthday party was out of the question for his twin sons Donald and John, after John was diagnosed with leukemia in May.

So, Robert took to Facebook and crossed his fingers. A 26-year resident of Wesley Chapel, he hoped he could rally enough people willing to drive by his home and offer a happy seventh birthday wish for the boys from their vehicles.

Wesley Chapel didn’t let him down. More than 100 vehicles drove by the Roush home in two hours in Fox Ridge, honking and hollering birthday wishes, including fire trucks, a motorcycle club and some classic cars. Many waved elaborate signs wishing the twins a happy birthday, others handed out gifts for them.

“Honestly at first, we were apprehensive,” Robert said. “We’ve lived in Wesley Chapel for 26 years and I’ve seen how much it has changed with so much growth (and new people) the last two years and worried maybe it was losing that sense of community…but I was overwhelmed in a very good way. We saw that, at the core, the community is still there.”

Donald and John waved back from the front lawn of their home. They posed with firefighters, who brought gifts. John got to see teachers and his classmates from Quail Hollow Elementary, who he never got to say goodbye to this school year due to his untimely diagnosis.

“That was a big deal for him,” Robert said. “Missing the last weeks of school was really, really tough for him.”

John will not be able to attend classes in the fall, and will be home schooled by Robert. John’s mother Laura is a teacher’s assistant at Quail Hollow and is taking classes to become a teacher.

In May, John, who hadn’t been himself for months, was taken to St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital, where he was diagnosed with leukemia.

He spent the following 11 days in the hospital. The doctors say there is a two-year battle ahead of the family, but Robert says people who have children with leukemia or have already been through it have told him that two years “is a pie in the sky” prediction.

“We think we’re looking at 3-4 years of chemotherapy and other treatments,” said Robert, a self-employed counselor and pastor. “We’ll just have to take it one month at a time, and pray for the best.”

On the twins’ actual birthday — June 24 — John had a bone marrow draw and a spinal injection, where he had to go under anesthesia and have chemotherapy directly injected into his spine.

As a result, he was worn out 45 minutes into his birthday drive-by celebration the following day, but not before he was able to enjoy a reprieve from the loneliness of his illness.

“It absolutely was good for him, not only seeing how many people were supporting him and rooting for him, but it also gave him closure for the end of school,” Robert said. “It really helped him.” — JCC

Note – On July 1, Robert Roush posted the following on Facebook: 

“After a wonderful birthday, due to the love and support of the community, John has had a few setbacks. He had to undergo an additional bone marrow draw…and his blood counts have dropped, requiring him to be admitted back into St. Joseph’s. His spirits are high, but his energy is low. Please pray for our little man and our family…God willing he may be home for the 4th (of July).”

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