OKLAHOMA CITY - Eight-year-old Jaxon Dugger from Hollis, Oklahoma, is all smiles. You'd never know from the outside the real pain he's endured since a toddler.
"When Jaxon was two, we started noticing that he was having trouble walking and he started falling," explained his mother J'Cinda.
An MRI revealed a rare and dangerous brain tumor pressing on the part of his brain that controls motor functions. Further tests confirmed the tumor was Ewing's Sarcoma.
Dr. Rene Mcnall-Knapp with Jimmy Everest Cancer Center says Ewing's Sarcoma is "actually a tumor that usually presents in muscle or bone or some sort of soft tissue. Jaxon's tumor was actually in the main part of the brain."
For Jaxon, that meant surgery to remove the tumor followed by some of the strongest chemotherapy medications available. On top of that, he received 31 rounds of radiation at ProCure Proton Therapy Center.
Even after all of that, Jaxon was still smiling.
"He was always in good spirits, always showing us a new dance and just really doing well," Dr. Mcnall-Knapp remembers.
It was after his radiation was through that Jaxon experienced some of the harshest reactions to his treatment. He ballooned to three times his normal weight despite losing his appetite and finding it impossible to eat.
He ended up in rehabilitation, learning to walk again.
Unfortunately, this wasn't the last bad news he and his family would receive.
In 2015, an MRI revealed Jaxon's tumor had returned and he's been fighting it ever since. There is a visible lump on the top of his skull that is actually an access port that has been surgically implanted under his scalp. It enables the clinic to deliver chemotherapy treatment directly to his brain.
"I can't think of a time he's cried or fought with them to access the port. Whether it's labs, a spinal tap, or an MRI, he just sits there. He has ever since he was two!" said J'Cinda.
While J'Cinda talks, Jaxon covers her cheeks with kisses. He simply exudes love for his family and his medical team at Jimmy Everest.
"He thinks and believes that this is something we can keep fighting, that he will eventually be cured," said Dr. Mcnall-Knapp, shaking her head in amazement.
J'Cinda recalls the news the tumor had returned, "He said 'Mom, don't cry! I'll beat it again!'"
We could all learn something about love, endurance and hope from Jaxon.
Click here if you'd like to help Jaxon and other children fight cancer.
'Kids with Courage' is sponsored by the Jimmy Everest Center.