Valdosta Daily Times

Local Sports

June 6, 2008

Believe in the Cure

Teen diagnosed with Hepatitis B cycling to raise money, awareness

VALDOSTA — Early Thursday afternoon, two images could be seen rising out of the steaming blacktop of U.S. Highway 84 headed east into Valdosta.

As the scorching pavement pushed steam into the air, two cyclists were riding through the heat, as their journey brought them from Pensacola, Fla. to Valdosta and then beyond.

Seventeen-year-old John Ellis and his friend Jamaal Warren started their journey four days ago, leaving behind their hometown and a frightening diagnosis to Ellis. The journey will bring them 1,100 miles north and toward hope for others suffering from the same disease.

Although the physical journey started Monday, the course was set two years ago when Ellis, then 16, was diagnosed with Hepatitis B.

Up until the diagnosis of an infection in his liver, Ellis’ body was rebelling. Every day after coming home from school, exhausted beyond his limits, he would have to head straight into his room for a three-hour nap.

It proved to be more than just a teenager stressed out with the rigors of high school. A visit to the doctor just two weeks before his 16th birthday, almost to the day his current journey started, revealed the enzymes in his liver were elevated.

“Of course I was really scared at first, because I didn’t know what it was,” Ellis said. “After they ran the second test, it was definite, and that’s when I turned to the Hepatitis B Foundation Web site. It was monumental in bringing me through that.”

Ellis continued to consult, which started to stoke the fires of raising money for others to be assisted.

Along with research, Ellis also started taking medications to help with the disease about two weeks following his second blood test. That’s when he picked up the energy to start looking after himself physically.

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