A cancer diagnosis is never easy, especially if it's a child. For the past three years, a seven-year-old Elberta boy has been fighting brain cancer with a smile on his face.
Little Baxter Duddy celebrated his end of treatment last month by ringing the bell. It comes three years after he rang the bell for the first time following his cancer diagnosis.
"When we were told it was a brain tumor it was devastating. We never thought we'd be in this fight. Baxter was a healthy baby and toddler," said Brook Duddy, Baxter's mom.
Brook and her husband Zac were optimistic. Baxter bounced back, then 15 months later the rare cancer returned.
"We thought we had this thing beat. Everything was going great. Then at his routine MRI July 2016 showed two more new tumors and then we did MRI to his spine... And it shows it had metastasized to his spine," recalled Brook.
At 5-years-old he underwent another major brain surgery to remove the tumors. In the last few years -- their search for the best treatment has taken them to Memphis, Atlanta, and Augusta. In that time, he's undergone more than 80 rounds of radiation and continuous chemotherapy.
"We are doctor appointment to doctor appointment. We are constantly worried about something growing in there... So it just makes you worry a lot," said Zac Duddy, Baxter's dad.
This has been a rough year for the now seven-and-a-half-year-old. He had his third brain surgery and two hospital stays which lasted over a month -- at one point losing his ability to swallow.
On a video posted to his Facebook page four weeks ago, his mom captures the moment he took his first bite of a doh-nut -- even surprising himself by swallowing the small bites.
"And that was probably one of the best days ... To know this isn't going to take everything from you," said Brook.
These days if he's not riding his bike -- you'll find Baxter in the sandpit or swimming pool with his little brother.
"To come home and him turn it around and get stronger and stronger... Able to be a normal kid again -- is amazing," said Zac.
As they follow up with weekly and monthly visits, Baxter is proving he's stronger than most and still has a lot of fight.
"Him having a smile on his face keeps a smile on our face. What do you do? You fight! You just continue to fight it. It's all we can do," said Brook and Zac.
The family is very grateful for all the support they've received and says they'd not be able to make it with friends and family.
This weekend Sever captains from the "Blue Marlin Grand Championship" at the Wharf are donating 5% of their winnings to help with Baxter's fight. It all started after family friend and defending champ -- Clayt James challenged other captains and crews to do the same thing.
Meanwhile, click here if you'd like to donate to Baxter's GoFundMe page. The family also has a Golf Tournament Fundraiser for Baxter and Easton Carraway - who is also from Elberta and battling cancer. That event will be held at The Soldier's Creek Preserve Saturday, August 25th.
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