Carlton’s Cancer: Trials and Testimonies

Carlton’s Cancer: Trials and Testimonies

Nightmares are only supposed to occur while you’re sleeping. However, while Mercy faculty and students were preparing to end the spring semester of 2011, Carlton Spruill Jr. was wide awake, as he was experiencing the beginning of the worst nightmare of his life.

Fresh out of classes and ready for summer break in June 2011, Spruill’s plans were interrupted by what he thought was a bad case of the flu that simply would not go away.

“I had taken every type of antibiotic known to man, and my symptoms never went away. I remember developing a small knot under my chin,” said Spruill, a Mercy College graduate, class of 2014.

Alarmed by the existence of the knot and the pain it caused, Spruill decided it was time to seek additional medical advice. Since his father was a big fan of natural doctors, he insisted Carlton see a nutritionist before he was given anymore medical prescriptions.

The first nutritionist put him on a strict diet along with natural supplements to make the knot go away. However, although the supplements finally relieved his flu symptoms, the knot was still present.
Frustrated by the pebble sized knot still being on his face, Spruill then visited a series of doctors. He began with an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor who wanted to surgically remove the knot right away.

“My parents weren’t too fond of the idea of my having surgery over a simple knot. I was working at a summer camp and having surgery mid-summer would have thrown everything off,” Spruill exclaimed.

Skeptical of the surgery, the process stalled and the knot still remained.

Over the weeks, the knot grew and with his summer job ending in the second week of August. Spruill knew he needed to go back and see the ENT doctor. Still pushing for Spruill to do a biopsy on the knot, the doctor persuaded his family that Carlton should have a further examination and tests.

A week later, ready to be rid of the pebble on his chin, Spruill walked into the doctor’s office with hope and a prayer. However his enthusiasm was quickly tempered with fear and anxiety when his doctor pulled out a needle the size of a twizzler.

“I have a huge phobia of needles. So at that point I was nervous and just wanted it to be over with. The doctor took the syringe out and stuck it into the knot directly under my chin.”

Attempting to stay calm by closing his eyes, Spruill’s phobia of needles seemed to be fading away until he felt the needle touch his jaw bone. As his hands began to shake, the doctor slowly took the needle out and Spruill thought he would be able to breathe a sigh of relief until he noticed another needle.

Wanting to get it all out the way, Carlton grinned and bore it. Needle number two did its job, and as a result, the doctor had the necessary samples needed to send back to the lab.

All that was left to do was to sit and wait for the lab results to come in. After a few days, the results were in and the doctor called.

“The results showed that there wasn’t anything to be alarmed about and everything was normal,” said Spruill.

Mind boggled by the results that did not explain the existence of the growing knot, the doctor decided surgically removing it was the next best step. It was September and classes were commencing. Spruill had the surgery done and quickly went on with his usual life.

“I moved into the residence hall at Mercy and started my classes. About two weeks after the surgery we went back for the results,” said Spruill.

Just like the other appointments, the Spruills awaited the doctors arrival and would be told the results stated nothing was wrong. It was the same process times before, but Spruill and his family had no idea this appointment would not end like the others.

“The doctor came in, shook our hands as he always did, but this time there was something different about him. His hands were sweaty and his face was beat red, as if he was running. He paced back and forth with the folder in his hand. All I could think about was, “What is wrong with the doctor, and why is he pacing back and forth?”

He sat down, opened up his folder and told us he had the results from the lab of the samples. “I’m so sorry that I have to deliver this news to you. The samples showed cancerous cells,” said the doctor.

Confused and in disbelief Spruill’s father immediately asked, “What are you saying to us doctor?”

Still the color of a tomato, the doctor replied “Your son has cancer.”

As the room grew eerily quiet, the words began to increase with volume in Spruill’s head. After two minutes of silence and a mental disbelief, Spruill asked the doctor what would happen next. The doctor responded by saying he would refer Spruill to the best oncologist he knew.

After getting a reference from the doctor, the Spruills agreed to meet with an oncologist from Westchester Medical Center.

“We walked into his office –  he opened the folder and then looked up. He initially explained that Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is one of the rarest cancers ever known. Now I’m thinking to myself, ‘Isn’t that just great?'”

Yet the doctor explained that it was a “good type of cancer.”

At that point we looked at him as if he had five heads,” Spruill explained.”

The doctor explained that the cancer was detected early and thus easier to treat at that stage.
“My initial reaction was that this wasn’t a prank or a dream. This was really happening? I have cancer? My mind began to race with questions. What stage cancer do I have? Will I live to see my friends pursue their dreams? Is my life now over?”

The thought of not living frightened him, and since he is a Christian, his faith strengthend and rose to new heights.

“I knew for sure that whatever the outcome, this was totally God’s plan and that he was in full control,” said Spruill.

Being a child of God and possessing immense strength and faith, Spruill remained undefeated.

As his symptoms grew, so did his faith that everything would eventually be healthy. The son of a preacher, Spruill remained grounded in the word of God. Even through hair loss, nausea, severe headaches, weight gain, and fatigue – nothing could break his spirit.

Before they knew it, Spruill had scheduled a PET scan to determine where and how much of the cancer was in him. The PET scan determined that he was between stages 1 and 2, and the cancer was located in his neck, chest and stomach. The next steps were to get a port installed and start chemotherapy.

“A port is a plastic tube that is surgically put into your chest. The doctors use this port of entrance for taking blood and chemotherapy sessions instead of using veins in arm or fingers because they become weak quickly. We agreed to one year of chemotherapy, where treatment would be once every three weeks for eight hours,” Spruill adds.

After six long months of chemotherapy, Spruill scheduled what he hoped to be his last scan and to his surprise, it was. The PET scan showed that the cancer had gone into remission. At that point, Spruill opted to end treatment.

It is now three years that he has been in remission and each day he is a shining example of the power of prayer and great medical doctors.

According to, there are 1,845 people who have Hodgkins in the U.S., and percent of people who have prevented it and Spruill is of the 80 percent who have survived it.

Unfortunately, he is still affected by the cancer. Spruill still experiences hair loss, short term memory and complications with his immune system. Full of faith and fervorr, Spruill continues to stay blessed.

There are about 1,150 deaths from Hodgkin’s lymphoma annually. Nearly 500 are females and 660 are males, according to It is a rare form of cancer; however, it is most common in early adulthood, ages 15 to 40, and especially in the early 20s.

“I truly believe that I’m a cancer survivor. My experience was just God testing my faith. I wanted to live, and I know God still has tasks left for me to do on this earth. So as a result, I had to focus my thoughts on positivity, living, getting through the experience and appreciating the plethora of family and friends who love and care for me,” Spruill exclaimed.

Many young adults who feel invincible against serious illness need to understand anything can happen. Cancer is not selective on who it will affect and your health should be taken seriously. Get regular check ups, eat healthy and stay aware of all the things that can affect your health.

A person’s risk of developing Hodgkin lymphoma depends on many factors, including age, genetics, and exposure to risk factors, according to

Now a Mercy College alumnus, after graduating in May 2015, Spruill is eating healthy and maintaining his appreciation of life. Carlton Spruill Jr. has lived through his trial and is now and forever more a living testimony.

Psalm 30 verse 5 states, “…Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”