(SHELBYVILLE, Tenn.) — A 12-year old boy who has battled a rare form of cancer since he was 7 has made a bold decision: He is stopping his treatments so he can go home and be with his family.
Alex Rodriguez is aware of what his decision means. So is his hometown of Shelbyville, Tenn., which has rallied around the boy.
“I had the opportunity to meet Alex this summer,” Dr. Tracy Lampley, principal of Harris Middle School told ABC News. “He is a very courageous young man to have a very mature adult outlook on life. It’s amazing as a 12-year old he is really able to face the opportunities and challenges that he has in his remaining time.”
“He’s just a wonderful little boy,” Rodriguez’s grandmother Carolyn Camacho said. “He’s always happy. No matter what he’s always happy and he doesn’t like to talk about his cancer. It makes him sad and he wants to be happy.”
Rodriguez’s school and neighbors have been touched by his choice and are trying to make his last days cheerful, raising money for his hospice care and taking care of his bucket list.
He has two wishes, to tour the Coca Cola factory in Atlanta, Ga., and go to the indoor water park at the Wilderness Resort in Tennessee. He will see one of them come true over the weekend when he visits the Coca Cola factory Saturday morning, in a limo, the ride donated by a businessman.
Rodriguez was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer, when he was 7. This type of cancer is made up of cells that normally develop into skeletal muscles and is more common in children than adults, according to the American Cancer Society.
He had surgery on his spine and had a bar and two “cages” — cylinder devices in the spine to replace discs — put into his back. He had to learn how to walk again after the surgery and received radiation as well as chemotherapy.
The treatments worked, but only for two years.
When Alex was in the sixth grade, “He went for all of his scans and tests and they said everything was gone,” his grandmother said. “Then two or three months later it came back and it hit him pretty hard.”
Once the cancer returned, Rodriguez again resumed chemotherapy and radiation, but the tumors kept coming back.
With only one choice left — traveling to Texas for experimental treatments — Rodriguez opted to stay home so he can be with his family.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio