CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When Robby Venturino, an 18-year-old freshman at Morehead State University in Kentucky, came home to visit his family in Williamson in November 2005, his mother, Tami Mosley, knew something was bothering her son. He'd become pale, thin and prone to coughing fits.
"I finally said, 'Please, let's just go to the doctor," Mosley said. "I thought, 'OK, worst-case scenario is that he has pneumonia. He'll miss class Monday, get some IV antibiotics, and be back to class Tuesday.' Wow, was I wrong."
Doctors found a tumor extending from his collarbone to the bottom of his left lung.
"And that was just one," Mosley said.
Venturino was diagnosed with stage-four Ewing's sarcoma. He began treatment immediately, and was forced to put college and many of his other interests on hold so that doctors could regulate his white blood cell count and administer his treatments.
When the summer of 2006 began to approach, though, Mosley said her son began to "work on his doctors" so that he could be allowed to leave the hospital for a few weeks.
That's because annual state 4-H camps were coming up -- the Older Members Conference (OMC), Alpha I and Alpha II -- and Robby, who had been attending 4-H camps since he was 10, didn't want to miss them.
"He told them, 'Look, I'm going to camp,'" Mosley said. "His doctors kept telling him, 'Cancer doesn't take any time off.' We were in the hospital for chemotherapy during Christmas Eve that year, but my son just said, 'Cancer's going to take a break when I go to 4-H.'"
In 4-H, a youth organization geared toward experiential learning, community engagement and developing leadership skills, members age out of the program at 21. From the time he was diagnosed with cancer until he aged out, Venturino did not miss a county or state 4-H camp, Mosley said.
"I think the plan was that while he was at 4-H camp, he would have to go on Tuesday and Thursday for his blood count," she said. "When he got to that first camp [after the diagnosis], needless to say, he had no hair, no eyebrows. He was very thin and very pale. He didn't care -- he was going to go be with his friends. After two days, he was full-force Robby all over again. It was like he'd never been sick."
Robby Venturino passed away last November at the age of 25.