WASHINGTON (WRCB) -- A north Georgia soldier is in the fight for his life.
Private Cale Wooten was in basic training, when doctors discovered cancer growing in his bones.
Channel 3 introduced you to Cale in January, when doctors were looking for a bone marrow match.
Hundreds of Gordon County residents responded to our story, by giving blood and joining the bone marrow registry.
Doctors found their match. And now, Cale faces his biggest challenge yet.
We've known since Cale's diagnosis that he needed a bone marrow transplant.
Doctors have spent the last six months treating Cale, to prepare his body for the surgery that will finally happen Wednesday.
His mom is his donor. Doctors are hoping with her marrow they can save Cale and get him back to what he loves: the infantry.
At a young age Cale Wooten knew he wanted to be a soldier. "Pride," Cale says. "I'm proud of my country. Honor, I guess, just the fact that I finally get to do something. I can give back." The private was in basic training, just one physical fitness test from completion, when his dreams were put on hold. "In basic training your scores don't go down," Cale says. "Your scores go up. Everything goes up, and my stuff went down." His running score fell by two minutes. He couldn't do enough push-ups. It wasn't until a trip to the emergency room over Christmas break that he found out why. "When I got there they took my blood and told me I may have leukemia," says Cale. He was diagnosed with acute myelocytic leukemia. It causes cancerous cells to replace healthy ones in the bone marrow. "You just pretty much learn to suck it up, so that's what I'm doing so far," says Cale. Cale endured intense chemotherapy, as doctors searched for a bone marrow match. Channel 3 was there in January when droves of north Georgia residents showed up, hoping to be the match. "All the blood drives and everything, it just blew my mind," Cale says. "I didn't know that many people cared. That's really cool." It's not just north Georgia cheering Cale on. Big names in sports and movies have visited Cale at Walter Reed. But the most meaningful visit came from singer John Mayor, who gave Cale this guitar. "I'm lucky," Cale says. "I'm real lucky." Now Cale gears up for one more battle. He's been taking an experimental medication to ready his body for a bone marrow transplant. It's working. His mom, a partial match, will be his donor. It's the next step toward remission. Cale looks forward to remission for two reasons: for his health, but also so he can get back to work. So he can be strong enough to return to duty. "As long as I get to finish training, I don't mind really," Cale says. "That's what keeps me motivated." Doctors say it will likely be two years before he can return to duty, but Cale isn't giving up. And, he hopes his family and friends won't either. "Just keep your heads up, I'll be okay," Cale says. "I'll be home soon."
Cale's surgery will take place at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Once in remission, he says one of the first things he wants to do is make the trip home to Chatsworth.
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