Vaught's Views: Being home is the perfect Christmas gift for Barsotti

December 26, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

Like most 16-year-old boys, Patrick Barsotti enjoys sports, hanging with friends and finally being able to get his driver's license.

Like almost everyone, Barsotti also enjoys receiving presents, especially at Christmas.

But this Christmas, it didn't take a special gift to bring a smile to the Boyle County junior's face.

"It's just good to be home to enjoy Christmas," said Barsotti.

That's because this was no ordinary Christmas for Barsotti - or his family. Just more than three months ago he was diagnosed with leukemia.

"I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know anything about leukemia except that it was bad," Barsotti said. "I have learned about it now."


Spending four weeks in a Lexington hospital for the first round of treatment to combat the disease started Barsotti's unexpected education. After that he was able to go home, but he had to return to the Lexington hospital once a week for treatment. He ended that second phase of his treatment last week.

"Eventually I will get to a maintenance stage at the end of the spring," Barsotti said. "That's when I will start getting back to a normal life. Being stuck inside most of the time and only being able to go out every now and then gets old pretty quick."

Doctors and nurses took the brunt of his humor

That's especially true for someone as full of life as Barsotti. He seldom sits still. He has that same innocent look as Dennis the Menace, but he's as mischievous as he can be. Even his doctors and nurses were the brunt of his humor during his hospital stay.

"I would have fun with the doctors and nurses. It was a bad thing to have happen to me, but you have to still have fun and make the best of a bad situation," Barsotti said. "Attitude is one of the biggest things that can help you. I stayed positive because the mental part is as important to my recovery as the drugs they give you."

No one could blame him if he felt sorry for himself. He had some "aches and pains during games" early in the soccer season. His knees felt weak. But rather than complain, he played on.

"It wasn't anything I couldn't play through, but I knew I was not myself," he said.

After games, not only would he be tired, he would also have a low fever and/or chills. When he finally went to the doctor, he thought the worst case scenario might be mononucleosis.

Instead, his life changed dramatically when he heard that dreaded word - leukemia.

Soccer was out. So was his role on the football team as a backup kicker.

"I asked the doctors if I could play baseball in the spring. At first, some said I could if I felt like it. Then others told me I probably would be sitting out about a year. That was hard to hear," he said. "I wanted to believe I could play in the spring. But when they told me it would probably be fall, that just gave me something to work for."

Since he couldn't go to school, he either had to try and keep up with his schoolwork at home or face the possibility of not graduating with his classmates in 2006.

"Some stuff I have to teach myself at home, but there's no way I won't stay with my class," Barsotti said.

He has received lots of support

Teammates and coaches from all his sports have helped support him. So have family members and friends during this struggle to get well again.

Yet he doesn't spend much time talking about the pain he's had or how difficult the treatments have been at times.

"My friends are aware of a lot of things, but we don't really talk about it. They would rather talk about the normal stuff we always did, and so would I," he said. "But they know it has not all been pretty."

During the worst times, he'll confide in long-time friend Alex Wagner. He says his parents have also listened and "been great" from the start when he has not felt well.

He says he's not felt sorry for himself. Think how hard it must have been to celebrate his 16th birthday the same day he got out of the hospital - yet he went almost immediately to get his driver's permit and says he'll get his license on time in a few more months.

"It was a long four weeks in the hospital, but I got over feeling sorry for myself then," he said. "I still miss being at school and living a normal life, but I am doing fine. I know I am getting better."

He was on the sideline for two of Boyle's football playoff games, including the state championship game. He's already planning to attend a "bunch" of baseball games.

"The guys will do fine and I will be ready to help them next year," he said. "But I will miss baseball a lot. It was definitely in the back of my mind that I might be able to start this year."

He has learned a painful lesson

When he does start playing again - and he has no doubts that he'll be back next year - he insists he'll be as competitive and fun loving as ever. But he also has learned a painful lesson we all should heed.

"I will play every game like it is the last one I will be able to play. There are no guarantees," he said. "You never know what will happen next. I am just going to enjoy every day for what it brings.

"Everybody gets so wrapped up in so many things that they forget to stop and enjoy each day. When I get back out there and play, I am going to play every game like it is a gift."

As you put away your gifts today, think about that last statement and value the gift of good health we all take for granted until someone like Barsotti helps us remember what really is important.

Merry Christmas.

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