KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — More than 10,400 children in the United States under the age of 15 will be diagnosed with cancer in 2022 according to the American Cancer Society. One of those small warriors is here in Knoxville and continues to face a monumental health battle.
For years East Tennessee has watched AJ Cucksey battle multiple inoperable brain tumors. In 2017, he was on WATE’s Good Morning Tennessee telling his story but also spreading smiles and making us laugh with his big sense of humor.
Fast forward to 2022 and now at age 12, AJ is fulfilling some of his dreams in the midst of another round of trouble with several of those tumors. AJ wrapping up a championship season with the Farragut MAC JV football team.
But two weeks ago, his health was center stage as he underwent surgery again at the Vanderbilt Eye Institute. This time for a shunt revision/replacement surgery to reduce the pressure built up from his most recent tumor growth.
“We had this shunt put in in 2016. That was when I was four, so it’s been a good while back, so it’s been a little while since we’ve had it replaced. She went in and made sure it hadn’t snapped or nothing,” said Cucksey.
The surgery went well but the journey is far from over. AJ along with his medical team and parents will then decide what treatments come next — it could be chemo or radiation.
“Yeah, well, I mean, I just look at it you know, as I can’t help any of what’s going on. So, I put it in God’s hands because I know He will do what’s right for me and lead me the direction I need to go in.”
In the midst of all of these big decisions, the boy’s family has been giving back to East Tennessee Children’s Hospital where AJ has been a long-time ambassador.
“Not too long ago we had to gift card drive for the hospital. I contacted a lady at the hospital, and I asked what type of restaurants are around the hospital because I was wanting to get gift cards for families who maybe have to stay overnight,” he said, “having to leave their homes after noon or something and these gift cards to restaurants to have.”
They raised more than $1,000 in gift cards. Next week, they will have to make some more choices about his treatment as they will meet with his surgeons and oncologist. For now, AJ says he will focus on the joy of football to keep his mind off of things.
“I would say that the past two years of playing football, have probably taken a lot of thought off of my brain tumors and everything,” he said.
AJ is looking forward to being the grand marshal for this year’s Farragut Christmas parade to celebrate him and the Farragut JV team on Sunday, Dec. 4.