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 who is facing such a stark decision with such maturity and good humor.
"I had the opportunity to meet Alex this summer," Dr. Tracy Lampley, principal of Harris Middle School told ABCNews.com. "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," Alex'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."
Alex's school and neighbors have been touched by the boy and are trying to make his last days cheerful, raising money for his hospice care and taking care of his bucket list.
Alex 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.
Rodriguez is seeing one of his wishes come true over the weekend. He will be visiting the Coca Cola factory Saturday morning, in a limo, the ride donated by a businessman.
Jeffrey McGee, a minister from Edgemont Baptist Church who set up a bank account for donations, is asking stores in the area to cover up their signs with messages to Alex so when he rides through town he can see people supporting him.
Florists in town are putting together blue ribbons for people to hang outside on their mailboxes or street lamps to show their support.
Harris Middle School, where Rodriguez attended sixth grade and Camacho is head custodian, is running a drive called "Ribbons for Alex" where they sell blue ribbons for 50 cents apiece. Money raised from ribbon sales and donations will go towards hospice care for Rodriguez and so far ribbon sales have totaled more than $1,200.
"Everybody has been so wonderful," Comacho said.
Alex's childhood has been wracked with pain and filled with surgeries and harsh medicine. When Alex was 7 he went to the doctor for his back aches.
"We didn't know what was wrong with him," his grandmother told ABCNews.com.
His family took him to Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt University Medical Center where the doctors diagnosed him with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer.
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.
"The tumor on his spine was growing so fast, it paralyzed him. He was losing the ability to walk," said Camacho.
Alex had surgery on his spine, a bar and two "cages" - cylinder devices in the spine to replace discs - were 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 came back Rodriguez again resumed chemotherapy and radiation.
Camacho said he has tumors in his legs, arms, shoulders, near his heart, in his lungs and there may be more.
Camacho said that Alex tried everything, but the tumors kept coming back. The only choice left is experimental treatments in Texas, but he does not want to leave home. So Alex made his decision.
"He's been going through a lot since he was 7," said Camacho. "Now he's on a lot of pain medication and hospice is coming in."
McGee estimates after a benefit next week, the donations will total around $10,000 to help pay for hospice care. He doesn't know how long that care will be needed.
"We don't know what kind of time frame we're in," McGee said.
Donations are being accepted at the Alex Rodriguez Benefit Account, Peoples Bank of Bedford County, 1122 North Main Street, Shelbyville, Tenn. 37160.
- Alex Rodriguez