HUNTERSVILLE, NC (WBTV) - This little strongman in Huntersville was diagnosed with leukemia at age 2-and-a-half. His treatment is scheduled to last over three years. By the time he's done with it, he'll have spent more of his life-fighting cancer, than just living as a kid.
That's what I took out of the pages and pages of beautiful notes Titus Cooney's mom sent about her baby boy asking if he could be a part of #MollysKids.
Titus is the youngest of four. Julia Cooney says her entire family has always lived a happy, healthy lifestyle. They all exercise, take supplements, vitamins, and drink smoothies, which is part of the reason it was so stunning to hear Titus was diagnosed with Pre-B Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in October of 2015.
It began with a low-grade fever. Every night he was exhausted by dinnertime, which is strange for a 2-year-old. Then small bruises started appearing on his body. His family took him to the ER one evening. They waited all night to get results of test after test after test on their little boy.
By 7am they were told he had cancer.
"That began the struggle we still face today," Julia said. "There are tons of things I could say about the struggle, but I think it's important to emphasize the astounding support from the community. People we have still not met, touched by the horrific sadness of a child with cancer have rallied around us."
They Cooney's have received prayers, donations, meals, and given two vacations to heal.
"We feel overly-loved and cared for," Julia said. "It's nice to focus on that, because everyday life is up-and-down. Even just basic things like keeping our home clean. We have to limit his germ exposure as much as possible, all while living in a house with six people."
There's no way around that fact the journey has been rough. Titus spent eight months in chemotherapy, before moving to maintenance. He's improved since, and now goes to preschool several days a week. But, you won't hear them complaining.
"We have never wondered 'why' this has happened," Julia said. "In fact, my husband has gone so far as to say, 'why not us'."
Some of that attitude comes from a deep faith. The rest of it comes from having such respect for their son.
"He is so brave," Julia said. "Titus isn't afraid of the clinic or sleep room (where he's put under to have the chemo drugs placed in his spine). He has a personality that shines through. Energetic. Super funny and witty! He loves to dance, play with Legos, be outdoors, ride his strider, cheer for the @Carolina Panthers and kindly torturing his siblings. He also has a fascination with skeletons. He's a unique child who always makes us proud."
Julia says she hopes more awareness will be raised for pediatric cancer. I hear that from parents all the time. At some level, yes. Awareness. But as we say for thirty days in a row during the month of September, it's also about creating ACTION. It's such a brilliant yet simple thought… I always want to be honest I stole it fully from my friend Erin Santos at @The Isabella Santos Foundation. She has always said awareness is fine, ACTION is what matters.
As for Titus, his treatments end February of 2019. You read that right. Another 15 months. By then he'll be six years old and as I said at the beginning, will have spent more of his lifetime in cancer treatment than not.
"It's a long journey," Julia said. "We're confident in our son."
Welcome to #MollysKids, Titus.
We're glad to get to know you.