CHS hosts fundraiser for student with cancer

Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Dustin Griffis, right, signs a guitar belonging to Josh Roper of Eagle Rock, who played in the band at Griffis' benefit event Friday at Cassville High School. Griffis was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin's lymphoma in October 2013, and the benefit was held to raise money for his medical bills. To make a donation to Griffis, people may visit Freedom Bank and make a deposit into an account set up for Griffis' benefit. Kyle Troutman/editor@cassville-democrat.com

Sophomore at Cassville loves playing guitar, hopes to drive big rigs

Dustin Griffis, a 16-year-old sophomore at Cassville High School, was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin's lymphoma in October 2013, but the upbeat teen is not letting the disease slow him down.

Griffis' father, Carl Griffis, said for about six to eight weeks, he and Dustin thought his continual itching and swelling in his neck and chest were byproducts of allergies and a more rigorous workout schedule, but after a few doctor's visits, he was diagnosed with something much worse than allergies.

"At the beginning of the school year, Dustin went to sign up for FFA, and one of the requirements was to get a tetanus shot," Carl Griffis said. "Dustin had never been sick a day in his life, and the hospital didn't even have a record of him after living here for 16 years."

Griffis said after receiving the shot, his son began to itch severely from his kneecaps down, prompting another visit to the hospital to get stronger medication for what he thought was an allergic reaction to the family's cat possibly carrying fleas into the house.

"A few more weeks passed, and it looked like Dustin was really buffing up in the shoulders, and then his throat started to swell, leading the school nurse to think it was a thyroid problem," Griffis said. "So, we went back to the hospital, and the doctor wanted to do an ultrasound. While we were waiting for the results, the doctor called another doctor in Monett, and he took a look at the ultrasound and told us that he had cancer."

Griffis said although the news was shocking, his son took it in stride.

"He said, 'If God is ready for me, I am ready for him," Griffis said. "I told him God is always ready for him, but I think he has other plans."

With medical bills piling up, as some of the original tests cost upwards of $30,000 each, the Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) group at Cassville High School decided to host a benefit for Griffis, which was held Friday in the high school cafeteria.

Elaine Boles, Cassville High School nurse and SADD advisor, said Dustin is such an inspiration to her and so many others, she wanted to do anything that would help.

"I've known Dustin for three years, and he's the one that always fights for the underdog and is nice to everyone," she said. "When he first found out he had cancer and was sent to the hospital, he was very upset because he wasn't able to bring his guitar to play for the sick kids."

Dustin, who is an avid guitar player and old-time country music fan who hopes to drive big rigs after graduating high school, said the benefit event is a big deal for him.

"It makes me feel really good to see everyone who supports me," he said. "It keeps my spirits up and helps me keep fighting."

Carl Griffis said it means a lot to him as well to see the more than 200 people who showed up to SADD's event on Friday.

"There's no way any one person can handle all this on their own," he said. "It's really neat to see how many people care enough to come out."

Griffis said his son is on the road to recovery, as the cancer was amassed in his neck, chest, lungs and spleen, but has now receded from his spleen and gone down significantly. Boles said Griffis is one of only two cancer patients in the country receiving an experimental chemotherapy treatment, to which he is responding very well.

"I am very proud of him because he's never negative about it," Boles said. "I'd like for him to come back one day and be a speaker here, because he is truly an inspiration to everybody."

Boles said the SADD event had a goal of raising $3,000 for Griffis, and with door fees and money earned from the live auction, the group well-exceeded that goal.

"I want to thank the community for all their support," Boles said. "It has been wonderful."

For those who could not make the benefit event but still wish to donate to Griffis, an account has been set up in his benefit at Freedom Bank. Anyone may go to the bank and deposit a donation into the account.

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