“Everyone tells me I’m strong,” 14-year-old battling rare mutation that fuels cancerous tumors

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OKLAHOMA CITY - It is a moment of exhilaration for 14-year-old James Woods, spinning down a snowy slope in Colorado on an inner tube.

This John Marshall student spent some time on spring break in Colorado, both snow-tubing and learning to snowboard. James knows a thing or two about both the mountain top and the deep dark valley.

“I remember being diagnosed with a brain tumor, having headaches and nose bleeds," explains James, recalling memories from when he was just 5 years old. That’s when he learned he had a brain tumor.

“Everyone fell in love with James. He has this great sense of humor, this light about him," said Dr. Rene McNall-Knapp, pediatric oncologist.

McNall-Knapp has been James’ doctor for nine long years now. She says surgery and chemotherapy kept cancer at bay in his body for several years.

Two years ago, his brain tumor started growing again, along with other tumors.

Experts say the tumors in James' body are only growing on his right side. Genetic testing uncovered a rare mutation that spawns the tumors.

“You can draw a line and the left side of his body has nothing wrong with it, and the right side has tumors on his scalp and in his eye and on his buttock and everything," explains Dr. McNall-Knapp.

James is now taking revolutionary new medicines that have only been available for the past couple years. They are designed to stop his body from spawning new tumors because other more traditional chemotherapy treatments can no longer accomplish that task.

But physicians at Jimmy Everest Center for Cancer must be vigilant because there are serious side-effects to these new drugs, including sudden blindness.

“My dad says I’m strong. My mom says stay strong. Everyone tells me I’m strong” says James, when asked how he handles such a difficult medical journey.

He says that the Jimmy Everest Center keeps him alive. Organized trips for cancer patients like the one he took on spring break also keep his spirits up.

In the meantime, he thinks about what the future holds.

“I either want to go to college and play baseball, or go to college and become a police officer,” James said.

“I call him a stud muffin because he's a strong young man” says Dr. McNall-Knapp. “He’s so kind and smart. He’s making all A's and he’s got a bright future.”

James’ medical team and his family are confident this baseball player can one day knock it out of the park.

If you’d like to help kids like James, consider donating to Jimmy Everest Center For Cancer.

'Kids With Courage' is sponsored by the Jimmy Everest Center.

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