John Lowrey barely remembers being the "bald, pudgy kid" with leukemia.

John Lowrey barely remembers being the "bald, pudgy kid" with leukemia.

But the memories of what he went through drive Lowrey, a junior at Upper Arlington High School, to participate with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training program

Every Wednesday, Lowrey awakens at 6 a.m. and pushes the dozen members of the local group through a 1,650-yard swim at Dublin Parks and Recreation Center. It's in preparation for the Nation's Triathlon on Sept. 14 in Washington D.C.

"(The treatment) was pretty grueling, but we had such good doctors and nurses," Lowrey said. "Our nurse practitioner (Carla Hughes) was always there for us. Since I have experience dealing with the disease, I thought maybe I could (help) someone else."

The Team In Training program seemed to be a perfect fit for Lowrey, a swimmer at Upper Arlington. The program was started by Bruce Cleland of Rye, N.Y., in 1988. After his daughter, Georgia, recovered from leukemia, Cleland formed a team of runners to compete in the New York City Marathon to raise money for the Westchester/Hudson Valley Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The 38 runners raised $322,000 that year and laid the groundwork for one of the largest endurance sports training programs.

More than 30,000 runners, walkers, cyclists and triathletes will compete in many of the major events worldwide this year to raise money for leukemia and lymphoma research.

But there was one catch for Lowrey. Athletes competing in the program must be 18 or older, and Lowrey is 16.

"The cool thing about this is John sought us out," said Dave O'Neil, a spokesman for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. "We weren't looking for a high school student to help us, but he e-mailed us, told us he was a leukemia survivor and wanted to do something."

O'Neil suggested Lowrey become a "team hero." Each group has a "team hero," someone who has battled or is battling leukemia or lymphoma, to serve as an inspiration. Lowrey increased his role by helping the team train for the swimming portion of the triathlon.

Because of his background in swimming, Lowrey is able to breeze through the 66-lap workout. UA swimmers typically swim about 5,000 yards a day during their two-a-day sessions during the summer.

"John is a motivator for the rest of the people on the team," said Brian Botzman, who heads the triathlon team. "Most of the team heroes come in and meet with the team once or twice, but John comes to every swim practice. He's overcome a lot of adversity and is a very strong athlete himself."

Lowrey was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia when he was 2 during a routine visit to the doctor. His mother, Kathy Lowrey, said the only symptom she saw was that his lips and the area underneath his eyes were pallid instead of pink.

"Leukemia can be a very vague disease. The symptoms are sometimes a slight bruising or a swelling in the nodes around the neck," said Kathy, who is a nurse. "In John's case, the only symptom was that he was really pale. We thought that was because he's fair-skinned.

"We brought him to (Dr. R. David Strominger, a pediatrician in Lancaster) for a routine check-up and the first thing he said was, 'Wow, he's really pale.'"

Within 24 hours of having a blood test, John was diagnosed with leukemia and started on chemotherapy.

"As a parent, it's terrifying to hear your kid has leukemia," Kathy said. "Being a nurse has its advantages and disadvantages. The great thing is you know the treatments, but you also know the risks that are involved."

John, who has been in remission for nine years, said he has only vague recollections of the chemotherapy treatments.

"I just remember having my 'tubies,' (a BROVIAC tube that was inserted into his chest to serve as a port for the medi-cines for chemotherapy) and the spinal taps," he said. "The spinal taps were the worst pain I can remember."

"Maybe it's better he doesn't remember," Kathy said. "I can remember days where his white blood cell counts got low and he had to stay indoors. Keeping a 2-year-old indoors was not easy."

Once John got his BROVIAC tubes removed, he picked up swimming and joined the Valley View swim team. He won the 25-yard freestyle at a 7-and-younger championship.

"That was one of those moments when you realize he's going to be OK," Kathy said. "He's not only surviving, he's thriving.

"When he was going through treatments, we'd see a seemingly healthy kid go through the office and that gave us so much hope. You look at him now and he's a healthy kid. I imagine he's hoping that now he can provide inspiration for other children who are going through the same thing."