Alabama Champions: Leesburg boy battles cancer ‘with a smile’


Collier Foote shows off his celebratory start to first grade./Courtesy Kayla Terrell.

By Katherine Page, Posted from ABC 3340

Collier Foote has all the energy you would expect from a 6-year-old boy and then some. Just ask his mother, Kayla Terrell.

“He’s a wild man,” she said.

However, his scars reveal that he’s been through more than any first grader should.

Just after his fifth birthday, Collier was diagnosed with a devastating cancer that had already infected his lungs, brain and 96 percent of his bone marrow. It was neuroblastoma, a cancer that affects nerve cells in children. By the time doctors found it, there wasn’t much they could do.

“I don’t remember passing out, but I would say it was a feeling something like that. The wind totally knocked out of you. My soul was crushed,” Terrell said.

Collier and his family took a leap of faith, buying one-way tickets to New York. They had heard Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center might have a solution.

“I didn’t know what it was going to be like, and I was kind of freaked out,” Collier Foote said. “I was a little nervous, and I didn’t want to go. “

After a nine-hour surgery and several treatments, the family found hope.

“One year to the day of his diagnosis, the day my world fell apart, he had cancer, one year to the day later, he was cancer free,” Terrell said.

But that relief didn’t last long.

“These kids are born with this, so their body, it doesn’t recognize that it’s not supposed to be there, so the biggest part of the battle is keeping it away,” Terrell said.

This past summer, they lost that part of the battle. Doctors found a brain tumor.

“That was devastating because there is no known cure for neuroblastoma when you relapse,” Terrell said.

So the family packed up again and headed back to the same hospital for another surgery, praying for a second miracle.

“June 7 we went in and we had brain surgery, and he came out cancer free again,” Terrell said with a huge smile. “So we’re now cancer-free again two times when we were not supposed to be.”

Just in time for Collier to start a new adventure: first grade.

“It was like we skidded in on two wheels for the first day,” Terrell said, laughing.

Through the grueling treatments, the last-minute flights, surgeries and multi-week hospital stays, she said that her son’s strength has inspired her.

“He doesn’t complain. He is tough as nails. He’s very easy-going,” she said. “I mean, all of these kids are brave. He’s brave with a big smile on his face. He’s really taught all of us a lot.”

To her, it’s just part of a larger lesson on faith.

“I’ve said before that cancer is an awful, ugly thing that nobody, especially any child deserves, but it really has taught us so much, and it has made [our] faith in the way that God has shown up for him. I mean it has made my little human do impossible, impossible things, and there’s just no denying that,” she said. “It’s nothing but miraculous that he’s here.”