ABITA SPRINGS, La. - A 6-year-old Abita Springs boy celebrates five years of being cancer-free. Today, he sees things differently, and he continues to fight.
Watching Ty Crowninshield do his right block and left block, you'd never know the future Taekwondo star had already fought the toughest battle life can could have thrown at him.
"He was so young. He had just turned two, so he had no clue what was going on," said his mother, Sandy Crowninshield.
A photograph showed the first sign that Ty had a deadly disease. While eyes often show up red in photos, Ty's right eye glared white.
"We said we would have it looked at, you know, we thought maybe a cataract or some thing," Sandy said.
They were actually looking at a tumor in his eye, and it was growing fast. It's called Retinoblastoma, and only 300 children a year develop it in the U.S.
"They said if we waited one week longer, he wouldn't have made it. The tumor had grown so fast it broke up and spread to his optic nerve, which was headed straight to his brain," Sandy said.
Ty spent his second year of life in and out of hospital beds. He was getting chemotherapy at St. Jude with his mom and dad by his side.
"You know, I don't know if I could have gone through that, and he just drove through it, trooper the whole way," said his dad, David Crowninshield.
"It was just real upsetting, you don't know if your child's going to make it and it's hard," said Sandy said.
After a year of treatments, with a "no mo chemo" balloon in his hand, Ty and his family left St. Jude hoping he would never need the procedures again.
Now, the little farmer celebrates 5 years of being cancer-free. Ty feeds the pigs every day with his grandfather at lunchtime, and he plays tetherball like any other kid. Ty pointed to just one difference.
"You know this eye is fake? This eye is real," he said.
He has a prosthetic eye, and it doesn't bother him.
Instead, his parents see him as strong and brave, and he made sure to demonstrate exactly how. On Wednesday, he ran around the chicken coop to prove he's the only one in the family who's not afraid to catch a chicken.
It's a small but important feat no one could have imagined just five years ago.
"Now I look back and see, he did it. He made it through without complaining or nothing. So I call him my little hero," Sandy said.
A hero who will keep fighting for a healthy, cancer-free life.
The family asks, in this season of giving, that everyone consider a donation to St. Jude to help celebrate Ty's five-year milestone.