FORT MILL, SC (WBTV) - Three-year-old Carter Bucciero is spreading more good from up above than many of us spread while still on the ground.
Carter lived in Fort Mill. He died in 2012 after a terribly fast 11-month battle with cancer. This year the Charlotte St. Jude Children's Research Hospital Dream Home is dedicated to him.
"My son's life here on Earth was not long," Sarah Bucciero said. "But it had purpose. He lives on through me."
Sarah's mission is to keep Carter's memory alive. Lots of parents who lose a child in his horrible way say their mission is to carry on their child's spirit. Sarah actually does it.
To understand all she does, you must know Carter's cancer story.
His diagnosis came after an ear infection. Five days into antibiotics he started throwing up the medicine. Doctors thought he was allergic so they switched the prescription, but the vomiting didn't stop.
"The Momma Bear in me came out," Sarah said. "I wouldn't take 'he'll be fine' for an answer. I talked with a pediatrician I trusted and she helped me get him admitted to Jeff Gordon Children's Hospital. The vomiting continued there. His pain was excruciating. He'd grind his teeth to try to make it go away. My two-and-a-half-year-old became almost comatose, only waking to throw up."
An MRI revealed an inoperable astrocytoma glioma brain tumor. Grade three, highly aggressive and in a place that couldn't be removed.
It was the worst of the worst.
He was transferred to Levine Children's Hospital where he underwent several brain surgeries. Sarah eventually took him to Memphis to have him treated at St. Jude.
"He loved his doctors and nurses dearly," she says. He'd greet them with hugs and leave by blowing the ladies kisses. There was something special about Carter. Everyone who met him saw it. Special things happened when he was around. People opened their hearts and allowed him inside. Still today we call that aura he had, 'pixie dust'."
In March 2012, the family headed to Disney World. Sarah says the first two days were magical. On the third day Carter was lethargic and vomiting. Sarah took him to the children's hospital in Orlando, only to find out his tumor had grown exponentially. It was everywhere.
She and Carter took an air ambulance back to St. Jude.
Sarah was asked, "Do you want hospice for your child?"
A question no parent should ever hear.
She didn't. She wanted to keep fighting.
Carter then received 24 full cranial radiation treatments. By June the tumor was smaller. He felt better.
That summer he played with his big brother, went to the beach and made family memories.
But in late July, Carter's belly become distended. Doctors said the tumor had spread to his belly.
"It was the beginning of the end," Sarah said. "I prayed and had a very long conversation with God. I told Him if He was going to take my son, to show mercy and take him quickly."
Her prayer was answered. Sarah says two days later Carter was reaching for the angels, and talking out loud about his "visitors".
"He didn't want to leave, but I told him it was safe if he went with the angels," Sarah said. "The next day Carter earned his own wings."
That is why four years later, Sarah still tries to celebrate Carter's life.
"Carter was a gift," she says. "He made a mark wherever he went. He made people smile in unexpected ways. I told him that all the time. He knew he was cherished."
In a very unique and loving gesture, Sarah continues Carter's legacy by spreading "pixie dust" in her son's honor. She does so by surprising people with nice gestures as often as she can, wherever she can.
For example, on what would've been his 7th birthday this past May, Sarah dropped off tons of Bojangles' to local firemen, policemen, teachers, co-workers, and… yes… our crew here at WBTV News. She also brought me pretzel M&M's with a card that read "Pixie Dust in memory of Carter Bucciero."
Sarah is also establishing legacy programs to benefit St. Jude and has walked the St. Jude Memphis Marathon 5k and other walks in Charlotte and in Nashville every year since her son died. She has personally raised over $20k in the past four years.
And – I love this – Sarah shaved her head for St. Baldrick's Foundation two years ago.
"He would have giggled at my bald head looking like his," she says.
To read more on CaringBridge: www.caringbridge.org/visit/carterbucciero1
To read more on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/carterbucciero/
"He lives on through me," Sarah said. "I'll always be his mom."
This is the tenth day and the tenth amazing #MollysKids we're all reading about.
Are you starting to get it? Help is needed. Pediatric cancer is underfunded. These kids' stories are real. Get involved. Donate. Volunteer. At the very least spread the word about Carter, and the many children like him.
**Editor's note: This is about one of #MollysKids in the month of September, children WBTV Anchor Molly Grantham follows closely on her Facebook page. It was first published there – which is why it's written in a personal way. For years Molly has followed hundreds of kids with uphill medical battles. During Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month, she features one a day. Thirty total. Find this story (and updates on all #MollysKids) here.