Rooting for the Underdog: Stratford student battles and beats cancer

DSC_2683Why do we always cheer when the unranked team defeats the reigning champion? Or when the homeless man rises up to become the CEO of a success business? Even in the age-old tale of David versus Goliath, don't we still root for the boy to beat the giant? When it comes to defeating something greater or better or larger, the underdog gives us all hope and inspiration. Logan Ashworth's story is one example in the Academies of Nashville that inspires and encourages. The Stratford High School senior is kind of unassuming: dressed in standard school attire of a pair of khakis and a polo, polite, but sort of quiet. Logan isn't really the kind of student to stand out in a crowd.

Those who know him, however, know he's accomplished something amazing: at only 14 years old, Logan Ashworth beat cancer.

"On January 21, 2011, I was told by the doctors that I had T-cell Lymphoma," Logan says. "I spent 16 days in critical care with a collapsed lung and nearly two liters of fluid in my other lung. Things weren't exactly promising for me."

For the next few months, the Ashworth family spent endless hours in the hospital as Logan underwent countless treatments: six surgeries, months of chemotherapy, numerous doses of radiation, and finally, physical and respiratory therapy. During the time, Logan received a lot of support from his "school family" back at Stratford.

"I told my school I didn't want to fall behind and have to drop out of Stratford," Logan says "So, Metro Schools sent teachers to my house twice a week so I could keep up. My studies helped keep me entertained since I couldn't go outside of our home or see people beyond immediate family for a long time because of the risk of infection."

"Working on my own, I finished my engineering class ahead of time, so then they gave me projects I could do at home," Logan jokes. "That kept me sharp and even helped me work ahead, so when I came back to school for my sophomore year, I was actually a little bit ahead of my classmates. Because I was studying something I was interested in, it kept me focused and motivated to get back to school on time."

Logan was able to return to Stratford for his sophomore year while still receiving chemotherapy treatment. Like many cancer patients undergoing this care, Logan experienced physical changes in his body and lost his hair.

“I was really self-conscious coming back to school because I looked so different from when I left a semester earlier,” Logan says. “Our principal, Mr. Steele, allowed me to wear a hat around the building even though it violated our school dress code. He has no idea how much that meant to me.”

But Logan had one goal once he got back to Stratford.

“I was determined to get more involved in my school,” Logan says. “I was still undergoing chemotherapy, but I got involved in cross country and tennis, and became an Academy Ambassador.”

But perhaps the biggest activity Logan has been involved in since returning to Stratford has been becoming the student leader for the Sparta Bots, a robotics teams in the Academy of Science and Engineering.

“By the time I got really involved in the Sparta Bots, I had started to recover a little and my hair has begun growing back,” Logan says. “In fact, I think some of the hair that grew back came in gray because of how involved I was getting!”

However, the story doesn’t end there. The Sparta Bots Robotics Team began to reflect the David versus Goliath tale as well.

“We were a rookie team competing against schools that have had years of experience and practice,” Logan says. “We were really proud of the work we did, but going into competition was another story.”

Ten engineering students met after school for six weeks to build their Frisbee throwing robot. After their masterpiece was complete, the Sparta Bots shipped their creation off to Knoxville to be entered into the FIRST Smokey Mountain Regional Competition.

In the first round, the launcher arm malfunctioned, but with great driving skills, they showed the other teams this bot could defend. In the second round, the launcher arm worked and received high marks for accuracy. In the third round, other bots took notice of the Frisbee shooting robot, and the Sparta Bots became the primary bot to block. Despite defensive efforts by the other bots, the Sparta Bots took home the highest score and were names the Rookie of the Year.

Once again, the underdog had won.

Logan hopes to take his experiences at Stratford and continue his education. He will be graduating on time with his Academy class and hopes to attend the University of Tennessee and study mechanical engineering.

“I couldn’t have done any of this without the support of my school and my academy,” Logan says. “I don’t know if I would have gotten back to school on time, or stayed focused on my studies, or gotten involved in the Sparta Bots, if it hadn’t been for the family I have in my academy.”

One thing is for certain though; Logan is no longer the underdog. However, he is someone we can all cheer for.