Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt
Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt
Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt
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Monroe Carell Jr.
Children's Hospital
at Vanderbilt
2200 Children's Way
Nashville, TN 37232

(615) 936-1000

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Meet Marshall

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Marshall Billingsley knows the value of laughter.

The 17-year-old high school junior is a bit of a jokester, including when you ask him if he spells Marshall with one or two l's.

"Three," he'll say seriously and then grin.

His laughter and overall enjoyment for life helps him battle Ewing's Sarcoma, a rare bone cancer most common in Caucasian teen boys. He will undergo 14 rounds of chemotherapy and two rounds of radiation. He's on round seven of the chemotherapy.

On Jan. 10, doctors removed part of his ischium, a bone in the pelvis where his cancer originated before it spread to his lungs.

 "Butt bones are overrated," he joked.

But you wouldn't know how much he's been through because his personality is so vibrant and upbeat. Through it all, he also maintains his role as the much-loved, older brother of six siblings.

"I'm living like never before," Marshall says, and offers as advice to others to "always smile, make jokes, and never be serious unless you have to."

Marshall has been coming to Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital since October 2010. That's when he and his parents, Bridget and Brian Billingsley, learned he had cancer. The news came after an eight-month struggle with extreme pain in his right hip, a pain that doctors thought was caused by sciatica.

Because he is a rugby player and a long-distance runner, the nerve pain was conceivable. Deep down, he knew the pain was caused by something much worse. Still he has stayed positive.

His personality, infectious smile and love for hockey earned him a role as ambassador for the day at a Nashville Predators game on March 12. He'll get to throw out the first puck, and he'll receive red carpet treatment. The Predators players, who make frequent visits to Children's Hospital, met Marshall making their rounds. Many of the players have signed his NHL game cartridge for his gaming system.

The Billingsleys have come to know Children's Hospital too well, referring jokingly to it as "chemo inn." But the doctors and nurses, they say, have made it easier. Marshall enjoys laughing with his nurses, Maggie and Lauren, during inpatient treatments.

"You get so close and attached to them that you don't want to leave," said Bridget Billingsley. "But when we do, it will be a good thing."

His family stays positive, finding inspiration in Marshall's optimism.

"There's nothing you can do to change it," said Bridget Billingsley. "You have to take each day as it comes, be as positive as you can and enjoy each moment."

Marshall is a fighter, and he believes he will beat the odds.

On his Caring Bridge blog, his parents write, "Only 1 in 5 survives when Ewing Sarcoma has spread. Marshall has already said that he will be the 1 of the 5 and we believe him. We can and will beat this disease."

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