ATHENS, Ala. (WHNT) - We have an update for you on a story that touched the hearts of people all over the Tennessee Valley and beyond.
It's the story of Ryan Kitchens, a seven-year-old from Athens who has been battling terminal brain cancer for more than a year, while his family stands by him--helpless.
At one point in his journey following extensive surgeries and chemotherapy treatment, doctors declared him cancer-free. But within three months it was back, and the family's finances were gone.
That's when thousands of total strangers stepped in to make a difference.
This week of Thanksgiving, we went to see how Ryan and his family are doing and found the love and prayers extended to them have given them all heart-warming strength--especially Ryan.
Since our story first aired, Ryan has become somewhat of a celebrity, inspiring people all over the world. His mother, Jasmine Davis, has learned how compassionate total strangers can be in the face of what continues to be a cruel predicament for any parent.
In the bright sunshine of Wednesday afternoon in Athens, Ryan darts out of his house and across the street to talk to his friend. Then, he darts back and ducks behind a wooden sign covered with references to his favorite team: the Alabama Crimson Tide football team.
Ryan has been diagnosed with medulloblastoma and was given a prognosis that he doesn't have much time left.
On this day, a casual observer might never know he was sick, as he goofed off like any normal child would do.
"They thought it would be a lot worse right now," said Jasmine Davis, Ryan's mother, talking about his energy as opposed to how doctors predicted he might be fairing by now.
Ryan was first diagnosed in 2011. His family has been by his side, making sacrifices, to the point they had nothing left to give.
His mother's fears over how she would afford to bury her youngest child and only son touched the hearts of thousands of people and moved them to donate more than $40,000 in a matter of weeks for funeral costs.
WHNT NEWS 19's Beth Jett said to Jasmine: "So, you were able to purchase or reserve everything Ryan wanted?" "Yes," said Jasmine. 'He has his Alabama Crimson Tide casket. We had a special company design his headstone and it will be Alabama themed. Everything is ready."
At Ryan's last MRI during the second week of November, doctors warned his health would deteriorate quickly.
The tumors in his brain had doubled in size.
But no surprise to his mother. Ryan wanted to know the details, so she told him.
"Everything is still headed down the same road," said Jasmine. Beth Jett asked, "How was he with that?" Jasmine answered, "He was good. He said 'ok Momma."
Ryan refused an oral chemotherapy that would likely have made him sick to no avail. He told his mother he just wanted to have fun.
"We decided to put it in God's hands and let my baby play," she said.
Ryan's bravery has inspired thousands of people all over the world. That includes his heroes, the coaches and players of the Alabama Crimson Tide football team.
WHNT NEWS 19 delivered two footballs signed by the coaches and the players, a hat, and tickets to the Iron Bowl. They can't wait to go!
The family has been celebrating holidays early, enjoying football games, and went together on his Make-A-Wish trip in a limosine. They're making lots of memories. And Jasmine says she talks to him about Heaven.
"I'm like 'You're gonna be my angel,'" she recalled of a recent conversation with Ryan about what would happen after he was gone. She said she told him, "I might not be able to see you, and can't hear you, but you just keep coming to see me. And he goes, "I will, Mom, I will.""
So the family's needs have been met and they can go into the Thanksgiving holiday giving thanks for every precious moment they have.
Jasmine says she has shared some of the money donated with other families whose children are battling various forms of cancer.
WHNT NEWS 19 would also like to say 'Thank You!" to Alabama football player Barrett Jones for helping get one of those footballs signed by members of the team.
Click on the following links to see raw video of Ryan receiving his gear from Jones as well as an anonymous donor who gave them tickets to the Iron Bowl.