NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) - A love of sports runs deep for 14-year-old Xander Brayfield from Norman.
Basketball, soccer, E-sports, and even a friendship with OU Linebacker Kenneth Murray are all things that bring out this teenager's famous grin.
But in quiet moments last May, Xander started feeling a troubling pain he couldn't ignore.
His mother, Kirsten De Beurs recalled, "When it came time to sit down and do his homework, he said my back is hurting so bad I can't take it."
"It was not the best summer," agreed Xander.
Not the best, because of what scans revealed.
Xander had a large tumor, wrapped around his aorta, lodged and growing between his heart and his spine.
"I couldn't listen to the doctors the first week because all I did was cry and I couldn't process the information," said Xander's mother.
Dr. Kisha Beg from Jimmy Everest Cancer Center shakes her head when asked about Xander's treatment for neuroblastoma cancer.
"You get a whole kitchen-sink of treatment," she acknowledged.
She says she's been very impressed by how Xander takes charge of his treatment plan.
"He picked up all the chemotherapy papers, he wanted me to talk to him about all the terms, all the side-effects, and he had GREAT questions," Dr. Beg said.
Chemotherapy did not erase the tumor, and the Brayfields eventually traveled to Michigan to a specialist who collaborated with Jimmy Everest Center doctors and performed an extremely risky operation.
Xander shows how the incision wraps around from his ribs to his shoulder blades.
He explained, "She went through my ribs, and took out the tumor somehow."
This tricky surgery was successful but is just the start of a checklist of needed medical procedures.
Dr. Beg explained, "He has to go through a transplant, stem-cell transplant, radiation, then maintenance."
All this difficult news has been balanced by incredible support from his medical team, his school, and the community.
Xander says he stays on track mentally by "just staying strong and knowing you're going to get back to your normal stuff if you just keep on going."
He added, "I love playing soccer, so as soon as I'm ready for it I'm going to get on the field and practice, get a physical trainer and get back in shape."
Xander is always ready with a smile, ready to reclaim his old life.
If you would like to help kids like Xander fight cancer, consider donating to JECFriends.org.
Kids with Courage is sponsored by Friends of the Jimmy Everest Center.