HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Carson Corrigan loves tractors and trains. Playground slides and his baby sister.
In these and so many other ways, he's just like any other 3-year-old boy.
Except Carson has endured more than most adults could bear.
His parents, Erin and Jason, say he was about 18 months old when they noticed him drooling a bit and chewing the inside of his cheek. They thought it had to do with teething.
But at their next pediatrician visit, Carson was running around the exam room when he fell and bumped his mouth on Erin's knee. The doctor looked in his mouth and noticed an area of plaque. Wanting a second opinion, the pediatrician referred them to a dentist.
Before their appointment date arrived, Erin noticed the plaque had changed in appearance.
"I called him and I said, 'I am scared to death this baby has cancer.'"
Carson was immediately sent for a CT scan.
Erin recalls, "the radiologist came in and said, 'I've contacted St. Jude' and I said, 'St. Jude, like on the commercials? Because that's not real life.'"
The diagnosis was Rhabdomyosarcoma, a type of cancerous tumor that arises in the soft tissue. According to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, it's the most common form of soft tissue sarcoma in children, affecting boys more often than girls. An estimated 350 children are diagnosed each year.
Carson's diagnosis came in 2017. At the time, Erin was three months pregnant. Since then, the Madison County family has experienced highs and lows. They welcomed little sister, Lainey, while also learning everything they never wanted to know about pediatric cancer.
Much of the last 20 months has been spent at St. Jude in Memphis or at Huntsville Hospital. This past fall, a scan showed a nodule in Carson's lung and he restarted treatment.
Although both Erin and Jason's families live out of state, they see each other as often as possible. It was Jason's mother who suggested they contact Make-A-Wish.
Erin says her first thought was, "that's for kids who have a lot less hope than Carson." When they learned Make-A-Wish is for any chronically ill child, they reached out and Carson was referred. He's been on the wait list for about a year now.
If and when the call comes, the Corrigan family knows exactly what Carson would like. A trip to Edaville Family Theme Park in Massachusetts, home to Thomas Land. Where Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends come to life, and Carson can just enjoy being a three-year-old.
In the meantime, Erin says, "Make-A-Wish has been super supportive of us and given Carson his own wish grantors who live close to us. They come visit him and send little gifts. If it's cold out, they leave a hat in the mailbox or if they find out he's (in the hospital), they send a balloon."
In addition to the love and support of the friends they've made on this journey, the Corrigans also have hope and faith. They've seen Carson's strength and they fully believe he will make it. He's already made them stronger. As Jason says, "even through all this, I still see us as a family in the future. It doesn't cross my mind that he's not going to be with us."
Erin adds, "when you look at families like ours, you think, 'I don't know how they do it. I don't know how they go through this,' and the reality is, you don't think about it. You just do it. You're stronger than you think you are, absolutely."
To learn more about Carson's journey, the family invites you to follow Prayers for Carson on Facebook. To help grant his wish - or the wish or more than 80 other North Alabama children still on the wait list - click here.