Friendship grows through adversity

Published 11:37 am Friday, February 27, 2009

January 1971 was a special month for best friends Don Armstrong and Butch Ellis who had baby boys just 11 days apart.

Donald Scott Armstrong was born Jan. 19. Frank Corley Ellis III was born Jan. 30. Corley has always liked to remind Scott that he is 11 days older to which Scott always replies, “No, just 11 days wiser!”

This life long friendship really set off in third grade when Scott and his family moved back to Columbiana. A huge part of their young life was spent on baseball fields, camping and fishing. After graduation from Shelby County High School, the friendship grew closer even when Scott went to Alabama and Corley went to Auburn. The rivalry of schools just made the guys’ relationship more interesting, they said. After college Scott became a commercial appraiser and Corley a real estate broker. They were inseparable –- best buds –- just like their dads.

But in 2005, this friendship took a new turn when Scott was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML) or cancer of the blood. Such a diagnosis would knock most people to their knees, but not Scott. With his incredible, positive outlook on life, he took up the motto, “It is what it is, now we got to go to work.”

Corley was there through Scott’s first bout of chemotherapy, which thankfully ended in remission. However in January 2008, the leukemia came back. The doctors recommended a bone marrow transplant but were unfortunately unable to find a match for Scott’s marrow. They then sent him to Duke University for a new procedure –– a stem cell transplant of blood from the umbilical cord of a newborn baby. Scott was at Duke for many months and had many caretakers who literally gave up their lives to take care of him, Corley of course among them. Corley was with Scott when he entered Duke and Corley brought him home.

When you ask Scott, what friendship means to him, he says one word, “sacrifice.” Corley speaks of friendship in another way, “To have a friend, you have to be a friend.”

John 15:13 reads, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” The friendship of Scott and Corley epitomizes this verse of love in action.

Scott Armstrong won the Cancer Survivor Life Inspiration Award in 2007. He credits his life to the research funded by the American Cancer Society and encourages everyone to participate in the upcoming Relay for Life events.

If you would like to support Scott and others with cancer, please write a check to the American Cancer Society and send it to Corley Ellis, P.O. Box 1177, Columbiana, AL 35051.