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Young survivor opens Relay for Life

Family plans celebration pool party this summer

— A 9-year-old boy who successfully battled a Willms tumor will cut the ribbon at this year’s Relay for Life fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.

Tucker James Yaksic was diagnosed Sept. 10, 2008, after suffering recurring stomach pain since that spring, said his mother, Tasha Yaksic.

Tucker and Tasha Yaksic have participated in the Relay for Life since 2009.

After suffering the stomach pain, he’d gotten a CT scan at Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital on Sept. 3, 2008.

A few days later, “we got a phone call that would throw our family into a snow globe,” Tasha said. “Tucker had a tumor the size of a large orange growing on his kidney and needed treatment ASAP.”

She said they learned Willms tumors have three stages, with three being the worst and untreatable. Tucker’s was between stages one and two. The tumors are most common in boys ages 3-8.

Tucker was treated by Dr. Judie Felgenhauer, a pediatric oncologist at Sacred Heart. She told them his cancer was curable and the chances of full recovery were high, Tasha said.

On Sept. 11, 2008, he underwent three surgeries, one to remove the tumor and his kidney, another to repair a hernia in the lower abdomen and a third to insert a central line for receiving chemotherapy and getting blood draws.

A month later, his “beautiful blond curly hair started to fall out,” his mother said.

The following two years “were scary for all of us,” she said. Return trips to the hospital were necessary, with his mother and baby sister Maya accompanying him.

“I think that the hardest part for us as parents was knowing that the drugs we agreed to give him were making him sick,” she said. “Slowly we watched our little brave boy deteriorate. Weight loss, hair loss, pain, low blood counts, no immune system — a small cold would sent him to the hospital for a week. Being separated from family was hard, too, he is a daddy boy no doubt, and not getting to see him was difficult to see, too.”

The next April brought his last chemotherapy treatment and removal of the central line.

In February 2009, he received a Make-a-Wish Foundation trip to Tampa Bay, Fla., meet his hero, Dennis Anderson and Team Grave Digger.

They got to visit the Tampa Bay aquarium and he took a ride in Blue Thunder.

“Anderson made my son feel like he was on top of the world, and he still talks about this trip all the time,” Tasha said. “They sent him home with lots of autographed memorabilia. Our trip ended with special guest passes to Busch Gardens.”

In the summers of 2010 and 2011, he and his family attended Philoptochos Camp Agape Northwest, a cost-free camp for children with cancer and their families.

His last checkup was Feb. 27, 2014, and he was declared cancer-free. They’re planning a “cancer free” pool party this summer.

“It is such an amazing feeling” to have the cancer-free diagnosis, his mother said. “He still needs to be seen every couple years just to check up on him, so other than that, he has a clean bill of health and is ready for the rest of his life.”

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