HARDIN COUNTY, Ky. — September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and a heartbreaking story out of Hardin County is bringing the topic to front of mind.
An 8-year-old boy died Friday after battling cancer for less than a year.
Natalie Nelson says her son, Quincy Ramon Nelson-Sweatt, was the most energetic, fun-loving and care-free boy you could meet.
"He could always see the bright side of everything,” she said, adding that his infectious optimism even extended to the hospital.
Quincy was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer, called diffuse midline glioma, in November of last year. A tumor filled his spinal cord in his neck, and despite dozens of rounds of radiation treatment, in August, Nelson was told her son had 4 to 6 weeks left to live.
“It was just like a whole awful nightmare,” she said. “He was just positive through all of that. It's just crazy, even when I was not very positive through all of that."
Dr. Mustafa Barbour, from Norton Children’s Cancer Institute and University of Louisville Physicians, treated Quincy and remembers the young boy's ability to light up the room.
"He was just such a wonderful kid,” he said.
Barbour says around 10 to 20 kids in Kentucky are diagnosed with this aggressive cancer annually, and the majority die from the illness within the year.
Though researchers understand the biology of the disease, he said there is still a lot more to learn to effectively treat it.
"Cancer in children is rare nationally and in our state, but still even just a few hundred patients every year is too many,” Barbour said. “We really need to be the village that supports these families."
He said though modern medicine still has a way to go, the overall cure rate for kids diagnosed with cancer is more than 80-percent, a huge improvement from decades ago.
Nelson says the support she’s received means a lot. There have been fundraisers and the she’s even received sweet memorabilia in Quincy's honor.
One day, Nelson said she hopes she has the strength to raise mass awareness about this form of cancer, but for now, she's focused on making the world a little brighter - like her sweet boy.
"I'm just trying to like, get everybody to live like a ‘what would Quincy do’ motto - to just be kind, and like, enjoy every day,” she said.
Earlier this month, Governor Andy Beshear officially declared September Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.