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“We just prayed,” 18-month-old undergoing clinical trial to fight tumor

WEATHERFORD, Okla. - 18-month-old Sawyer Ralston expects to be the center of attention.

The cute, little boy lives with his grandparents along with a half-dozen doting aunts and uncles who cheer him on when he's cruising around his Weatherford home.

Sawyer was just getting the hang of walking in the fall of 2017 when his grandparents, Alison and Brandon Hooper, said his development went into reverse.

"He stopped crawling completely, and he stopped walking," Alison said.

She said he was dehydrated when doctors decided to hospitalize Sawyer and run a battery of tests. They eventually found a tumor at the base of his brain.

"It was fairly big," said Dr. Renee McNall-Knapp, from Jimmy Everest Cancer Center. "The size of a golf ball but, in a kid's size head, that's pretty big."

"Once she told us it was cancer, we just prayed," said Sawyer's grandpa, Brandon. "Lots and lots of prayer."

Fortunately, surgeons at Jimmy Everest Cancer Center skillfully removed the entire tumor, leaving a long scar down the back of Sawyer's head, which is already fading. That wasn't the end of his medical story.

"Unfortunately, it's a kind of malignant brain tumor called an ependymoma, and that type of tumor tends to come back locally and just keep coming back locally," McNall-Knapp said.

That meant radiation for little Sawyer, and he's part of a clinical trial which includes chemotherapy that's physically very hard on him and, in turn, hard on his family.

The chemotherapy has already caused some high frequency hearing loss.

It's a tight-rope walk for the family because they're hoping the therapy he's receiving in the clinical trial will improve his long-term survival without causing too many side effects.

Sawyer's family is grateful for the care and caution from doctors at Jimmy Everest Cancer Center.

"We just hold him and love him everyday, and that's all we can do is love him. He's bossy, energetic, a cuddle bug and very lovable."

McNall-Knapp agrees, saying simply "he's adorable."

If you want to help kids like Sawyer fight cancer, consider donating to JECFriends.org.

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