His smile. It’s definitely the most dominant feature of 20-year-old Alcindor “AJ” McIntosh Jr. despite his circumstances.
Shortly after graduating from Abaco Central High School in 2013, AJ was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins B Cell Lymphoma. He recalled having chest pains that felt more like muscle pains, then as time progressed, the pain grew more intense and made him incapable of completing physical tasks like running, diving, volleyball and weight lifting.
Of course, AJ’s family and friends were all shocked when they received the news of his illness, his mother more so than everyone else, because he never got sick when everyone else did.
“I was always the one that seemed immune, so for me to find out I had cancer was a really tough pill to swallow,” he shared.
In school, AJ would play any and every sport and compete in any event. AJ was a decathlon athlete, captain of the track and volleyball teams, and he was always running, always exercising, always working and striving to become better.
“So when they found out I had cancer, it was literally unbelievable. But through it all, no one gave up, everyone stayed positive, and everyone knew I would pull through,” he said.
After seeking medical attention the first time, AJ was given antibiotics for pneumonia because he showed those symptoms. This was followed by night sweats, really bad chills, extremely high fevers, and then the left side of his neck started to become swollen and extremely painful.
AJ soon began to lose all of his physical strength.
“There are honestly some times when I wish that it didn’t have to be me, but when I actually sit and think about it, I know that God will never put more on us than we can bear,” he shared. “I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me, so that means I can get through this, and I intend to do just that. I won’t allow this to beat me.”
To occupy his time, AJ’s been reading, playing video games, watching a lot of television and responding to his messages daily. He’s also been resting as much as possible, and following his doctor’s instructions to stay positive.
His doctors and nurses’ positive attitudes have certainly helped as well as the prayers and well-wishes sent from Abaco, and for everyone who has helped him along the way.
“First of all, I’d have to thank God for giving me the strength and the amazing team (AJ’s Fan Club) that’s helping me along the way in so many different ways with their pictures, kind gifts, and words of encouragement.
“My family, Mom Dolly McIntosh. Then there’s the Abaco Cancer Society that has made this all possible for me to be here in the U.S. seeking the best medical attention possible. A special thank you to Mrs. Marjolein Scott for everything that you’ve done from that first day we met at the opening of the Frank Kenyon Center for Research, Education and Conservation.
“Then to those amazing folks at Friends of the Environment where I work. These ladies make sure that I’m okay every day. I’m always hearing from one of them, and the love they send my way is purely genuine.
“Lastly, thank you to you Abaco for you amazing Abaconians – the hope, faith and love you all send my way every day – I love you all so much. I can’t wait to come back home!”
There were two other people who particularly stand out – Gene and Carol Beard – who are missionaries of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
“I met them about five years ago on one of their mission trips at Dundas Town Church of God. We are really close, and they’ve adopted me as their spiritual son. They have assisted me in so many different ways. When they found out I was coming, they dropped everything and left Tennessee to take care of me.
“They have been taking me to and from my appointments, and back and forth to the hospital for my treatments. They have been cooking my food, making sure that I take my medication on time, and making sure I stay hydrated and stay as mobile as possible, especially when I don’t feel like it,” he said, appreciatively.
AJ has also been involved with Bible studies with the Beards every day, and the couple has prayed with and for him.
“They are simply just amazing, and they were there in the time that I needed them most,” AJ reflected. “God truly had put this plan together with me in mind.”
Still, AJ’s outlook on life has forever been changed.
“This has literally shaken my life completely. It made me realize that life is so fragile, so unpredictable and something that we have no control over,” he reflected. “It’s made me appreciate the little things that much more – the fact that I can walk again, that I can see, feel, hear, and most of all that I’m still alive today.
“Being in the hospital for 15 weeks, having a total of 10 surgeries done on my already weakened body, I know I have a lot to be thankful for and I know within myself that is God, and He alone, that’s bringing me through this.”
His focus is on getting past his health challenges, and continuing to amaze his doctors. AJ is also intent on sharing his testimony by beating cancer.
Through it all, his smile remains intact.
“Nothing is going to dim my smile, no matter how tough, how painful or how hopeless any situation may be. My smile makes others smile, and I won’t stop anyone from smiling,” a determined AJ stated. “Instead, I’m just going to use all of this to fuel my smile, and smile as much as I can!”