Anthony Stranges had cancer, which is the best kind to have: past-tense cancer.
During a routine checkup, his dentist noticed a mark on his palate, which led to a diagnosis of mucoepidermal carcinoma.
It's a form of cancer that most often hits smokers or users of other tobacco products, which was kind of weird because he was in second grade at the time -- not exactly a pack-a-day person or frequent dipper of snuff.
"After that, I went through a lot of visits to the hospital that second-graders shouldn't have to go through," the 18-year-old St. Francis DeSales High School student recalled last week.
Successful surgery and treatment followed and aside from annual follow-up checks, Stranges has been cancer-free for many years.
"I got a whole new perspective on life, really," said the Blacklick resident, the son of Matthew and Paula Stranges. "I never really thought I was going to die, but when I heard the word cancer, that's all I knew of."
The experience helped him to mature and gave him a career goal: Stranges wants to be a doctor.
It also is responsible for some very real lessons in leadership he is learning these days. As the DeSales student council vice president, he is working to organize a fundraising event involving four local Catholic high schools: DeSales, Hartley, Ready and Watterson.
The Central Catholic League For the Kids Dance Marathon, modeled after the Buckeyethon event that began in 2001 at Ohio State University, is scheduled from 2 to 8 p.m. April 13, at St. Francis DeSales, 4212 Karl Road.
The dance marathon, which, like the Buckeyethon, will raise money for the hematology and oncology floor at Nationwide Children's Hospital, came about because Stranges' sister, Olivia, is a student at OSU. She suggested that her brother see if there was interest at DeSales in creating its own version of the event.
"We aren't really sure how to estimate the number of people, since it's our first time," Stranges said last week. "We're hoping for 500 people, which is pretty realistic considering each school has 800 people."
He's hoping for even more next year, with the possible addition of students from St. Charles Preparatory School, also part of the CCL.
It's been a lot of work, Stranges admitted, involving meetings with his counterparts from the Clintonville, East Side and West Side Catholic high schools to figure out how best to promote participation among students.
"I'm definitely learning a lot of leadership skills," he said.
The work is all worth it, Stranges added. After all, this time, it's personal.
"I got to experience a lot of programs that this will benefit," Stranges said.
After graduating, the senior plans to study medicine at either the University of Notre Dame, Northwestern University, Ohio State, Duke University, the University of Chicago, Vanderbilt University or the University of Pittsburgh.
"So I can give people the same hope I've personally experienced," he said.