ELK GROVE — Caleb McNitt -- or Mr. McNitt in his Elk Grove classroom -- isn't just inspiring young minds as a teacher but also as a cancer survivor.
"There was moments in my life where I thought that the hospital was a war zone," he said.
Caleb was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, an adult cancer, at only 10 years old.
"I remember asking the doctor, 'Isn't that cancer,' and he said, 'Yeah,' and everything just stopped," said Susie McNitt, Caleb's mom.
Out of a dark time came one shining moment with the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
"I remember just rubbing his back, his head glistening, throwing up and just the heartbreak of that moment and him looking up and saying, 'Dad, I know what I want my Make-A-Wish to do,'" said Steve McNitt, Caleb's dad.
Make-A-Wish granted Caleb's wish for a Disney cruise with friends.
"I just think Make-A-Wish gave him a goal and something that he can control, and when he was going through everything he was going through, he didn't have control over anything that was going on," Susie said.
Caleb was terrified but tough. He survived cancer twice, and it's a story he shares with his middle school students who certainly appreciate advice on facing challenges.
"It must have been hard and challenging for him," 13-year-old Savon Merchant said.
Caleb or Mr. McNitt or whatever name he goes by, it's followed by "survivor."
"My initial response was death," Caleb said. "I kind of thought it was going to be the end of the road. Little did I know, fast forward 18 years, here I am."
Caleb just marked 13 years without cancer. Considering the disease came back once, forcing a bone marrow transplant, he doesn't say he's cancer-free but a cancer survivor.
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