An Oxford Village teen is hoping to earn the rank of Eagle Scout by helping others fight the same enemy he’s been battling for almost three years now – cancer.
With some help from his fellow members of Boy Scout Troop 366, Gibson Underwood recently filled 120 bottles with 10 milliliters each of a special blend of essential oils designed to provide aromatherapy for patients undergoing chemotherapy.
“They had an assembly line going,” said his mother, Diane Underwood.
“It went a lot smoother than I thought it would,” said Gibson, a senior at Oxford High School.
The bottles will be donated to the Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Clinic at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak.
“It feels pretty good to know that I’m helping other people,” Gibson said.
Each bottle contains a mixture of three essential oils – lavender, peppermint and spearmint. The recipe was created by Diane to help Gibson relax during his chemo treatments.
“Whenever I was freaking out or really nauseous, (the smell) would just help calm me down,” Gibson said. “It soothed me. I was surprised how much it helped me.”
In December 2015, Gibson was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic (or Lymphocytic) Leukemia, also known as ALL.
ALL is a type of cancer that forms in bone marrow, then invades the blood where it can spread to other parts of the body. It’s called “acute” because the cancer “can progress quickly and if not treated,” it can be “fatal within a few months,” according to the American Cancer Society.
Fortunately, the leukemia cells were confined to Gibson’s bone marrow and had not yet spread to his bloodstream or other parts of his body. Within the first month of treatment, Gibson went into remission. A bone marrow biopsy conducted in January 2016 showed no sign of leukemia.
But Gibson’s fight isn’t over yet. Right now, he’s in what’s called the maintenance phase. He’s being rigorously treated to prevent the leukemia from recurring.
To this day, he continues to receive chemotherapy three ways – orally on a daily basis, intravenously on a monthly basis and via a spinal tap every three months.
His treatments will continue until April 2019.
In the meantime, Gibson continues to live his life, which includes being a member of the cross country team, playing violin with the high school orchestra and continuing his pursuit of the Eagle rank, the highest level of achievement in scouting.
Gibson has been active in scouting since he was a first-grader at Lakeville Elementary School. He’s currently a Life Scout and member of the Order of the Arrow (OA), which is scouting’s national honor society. OA members best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives.
Being a scout has taught him the importance of “seeing things through to the end” and that sometimes in life, a person must do certain things “even if you really don’t want to.”
It’s also taught him that “hard work, typically, pays off.”
Gibson’s advice to other people fighting cancer is simple – “Don’t look too far ahead. Just focus on getting through what’s right in front of you.”