Oakland athlete battling leukemia graduates with honors, celebrates Warriors win
OAKLAND (KTVU) - It's been a pretty memorable month for Oakland teen Darryl Aikens: On June 9, the McClymonds High School athlete got out of his wheelchair to accept the high school diploma he'd fought so hard to obtain and then last week, he got to revel in the sweet victory of his Golden State Warriors' NBA title win.
Aikens was diagnosed with leukemia in 2014. Because of his illness, he had to take chunks of time off of school.
But even while he was sick, the star athlete and honors student continued to play football, according to Aikens' mom Tierra Barker.
Last year around this time, when he was supposed to be graduating with his class, he was undergoing a bone marrow transplant, a procedure that was made possible thanks to his mother, who became his donor.
Following the transplant, the 18-year-old student went into remission but then last November the cancer returned.
Aikens ended up enrolling in Oakland Unified School District’s hospital-to-home program which allows students to work with teachers outside the classroom.
Despite the challenges he faced, Aikens kept his eye on his goal.
"Whatever it is, he puts his mind to it. He shoots for that goal," Barker said of her son.
That day when he crossed the stage as an acknowledgment that he had achieved what he set out to do, the auditorium went wild.
"Oh my God. The moment they said his name, it was crazy," Barker recalled. "I cried like a baby," she added.
"It was amazing. He had been waiting for that moment. It's all he wanted to do," Barker said.
That day, Aikens also became the third generation in his Oakland rooted family to become a McClymonds High School graduate.
His family has been a strong source of support as they've watched this teen plow through the obstacles that have been set along his path.
Aikens' mom also gives a lot of credit to Kaiser's East Bay Pediatric Oncology and Hematology Department.
"They were there a lot for the family," Barker said.
In fact, Kaiser nurses were the ones who went out of their way during the Warriors championship parade last Thursday to secure a spot for Aikens and make sure the Dubs super fan got to be there to watch his team celebrate.
The moment was marked with a group photo of all them together.
Aikens' mom says her son operates by establishing goals for himself.
His next goal, she says, is to go college.
Baker says her son has been accepted to the University of Virginia Lynchburg.
He wants to play football there too.
His mother says her son's health won't allow him to attend college in the fall.
But if his track record is any indication, Aikens will take on and tackle the challenges before him and do everything he can to accomplish what he's set out to do.
Aikens' family members have established a GoFundMe page to help raise money for medical expenses.