By Jeff Shearer
COLUMBIA, Mo. - Auburn fan Clay Wormington celebrated his ninth birthday in style Saturday, watching his favorite team play without having to leave his home state of Missouri.
“I like them all,” Clay said when asked if he had a favorite player. “I know a couple of their names but not all of them.”
Three days after watching Auburn defeat Missouri 51-14, Clay returned to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, for his second round of cancer treatments.
“A great thing to get to do with the family before we have to go back,” said Clay’s mom, Sibra, who drove three hours to the game with her husband, John, and their daughter, Emma, Clay’s younger sister.
Five months ago, Clay’s pediatrician, suspecting asthma, ordered routine blood work. A low hemoglobin level led to more blood work and a bone marrow biopsy the next day.
The day after that, “We were in an ambulance headed to Memphis,” said Sibra, whose family spent the next 50 days with Clay at St. Jude.
“He has been in remission since June 19 but leukemia takes a long time to retrain your bone marrow to not make bad cells,” Sibra said. “Altogether, it’s two-and-a-half years he’ll have to take treatments.”
Clay will to return to St. Jude in December. After that most of his treatments for B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia will take place in Springfield, Missouri, about an hour from the Wormingtons’ home in Sarcoxie.
“He’s handled it really well,” Clay’s mother said. “We have his friends over every once in a while. He’s not able to go back to school yet. Maybe in January, he might be able to start going back to school.”
Clay became an Auburn fan after a friend visited.
“He came back and I asked him what he was doing and he told me he went to Alabama and I asked him what he did there,” Clay said before kickoff. “And he told me about Auburn.”
From his pal, Abram, Clay picked up an impressive knowledge of Auburn history.
“It was in 2013 that he said they were down in the Rose Bowl,” Clay said.
After learning of Clay’s diagnosis and his affection for the Tigers, Auburn Athletics sent Clay a box of Auburn posters, wristbands and a shirt he wore to the Missouri game.
“He picked [Auburn] all on his own,” Sibra said. “It’s grown on us, and we follow it more and more all of the time and as he’s gotten older, he pays attention to it more and explains more to me.”
Stays at St. Jude, where many of the staffers are fans of nearby Ole Miss, test Clay’s devotion to Auburn.
“It has been hilarious,” Sibra said. “The nurses give him a hard time a lot. And he has to explain liking Auburn.”
In April, the Wormingtons’ world turned upside down “overnight,” Sibra said, but Clay remains upbeat.
“He’s been a real champ,” Sibra said. “Ninety percent of the time you would not even know that he’s going through anything. When most people see him, they don’t even realize he has anything going on.”
That was the case Saturday night in Columbia, where Clay met Auburn’s cheerleaders on the field after the victory, the perfect ending to a night he described in one word.
— Jeff Shearer (@jeff_shearer) September 27, 2017
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer
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