He was a typical 8 year old boy: active, fun loving and athletic. Then one day last spring, Lucas Jones stepped out of the shower.
"He called me up there and said he had a bone sticking out of his belly on one side and not the other and wanted me to take a look at it. It was a really hard lump bulging out of his abdomen," his father Robert explained.
"I was like hurting kind of like this and I felt a lump in my body," Lucas recalled.
A doctor prescribed antibiotics but the lump doubled in size in one week, so Lucas had a biopsy.
"The surgeon called back a couple days later and said my son has cancer. And he has Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma," Robert said.
It is a rare cancer. About 250 children a year are diagnosed in the United States.
"He's stage four group four. It had metastasized into his lymph nodes there, but the primary tumor is in the perineal muscles between his legs, bone marrow, skeleton from the neck down to the knees," Robert said. "It's a tough prognosis."
It is a prognosis his family struggled to understand. Parents Robert and Karina along with big brothers Diego and Alex.
"Everything changed overnight. Overnight no more school. He's immunocompromised. He couldn't go back to school," Robert said. "One thing that changed is right away I started taking more pictures and more videos trying to capture every moment so I could remember it."
Robert describes East Tennessee Children's Hospital as the family's second home.
"The hospital is amazing. I never knew we had such a great resource in the community," he said.
Lucas splits his time between home and the hospital.
He's about half-way through a 54-week treatment. Lucas just finished radiation and faces months of chemotherapy.
"It's a meta-static disease. It's hard to get rid of so we're taking it one day at a time," Robert said. "Lucas is strong. He is a tough kid. He is inspiring to me."
Lucas' story has inspired strangers. A couple of people who found out about him on Facebook have now organized a fund raising bicycle ride this Saturday, Nov. 5.
"Such a blessing. Kadena is an angel, a literal angel walking on earth. Her and other friends who have done events like this to help us out," Robert said.
Kadena Hodson and Joe Black organized the ride. They are cyclists who have put together other events through Cycology Bicycles in Maryville. They look forward to helping Lucas.
"I hope that it encourages him, that he realizes how much he is loved," Kadena said. "He is such a brave little boy with such a huge battle ahead of him and pretty much I just want to raise awareness for childhood cancer."
That's what Robert Jones wants too, more awareness. And he wishes more medicine was available for kids with cancer. The drugs developed for adults can cause heart disease and other complications for kids.
"Something that can give the kids a better chance of survival or even a better life ahead after it's over, because it's never really over," he said.
Ride for Lucas
Saturday November 5 at 9:00 am
2408 E Lamar Alexander Pkwy, Maryville, TN
The ride starts at Cycology but please park in outlying areas and ride your bike to the store. Amerine Park is a nearby option.
Cyclists will choose routes of either 25, 45 or 62 miles.
There is no registration fee. Anything you donate goes toward Lucas' expenses.