Cole Stagner is like any other kid. He loves his friends, his family "and" his video games. But unlike most his age, he's spent the past year in and out of hospitals, fighting a rare, childhood cancer called neuroblastoma.
His dad, Elbie, detected the disease.
"I ran my hands down his side and was patting his tummy and felt something firm," says Cole's father.
What he was feeling was a tumor the size of a deflated soccer ball.
"I never thought about cancer once. Even after we found the tumor it didn't dawn on me until we were at UVA," he says.
The Stagners spent seven months at UVA Medical Center before transferring to Duke for a stem cell transplant. Of the 16 kids receiving transplants at that time, only six survived. Cole was among them.
Cole's mother, Lisa, is amazed.
"The miracles you see when you have a sick child. There are miracles everywhere but you really come face to face with them and they're so tangible," she says.
Faith, family and friends have kept the Stagners going. Their medical costs have exceeded two million dollars, but the community has contributed over $30,000.
The fundraisers have helped keep Cole in tip-top shape. Recently, he was scanned for any lingering neuroblastoma cells.
"Thank the Lord it was clear and that's the best present anyone could get," says Cole's dad.
This Father's Day is especially meaningful for Elbie and Cole.
"He's a very good dad and very special to me," says Cole.
Cole's chances of relapsing are still very high, but his family is hopeful their little cancer survivor will regain his full health soon. And for other kids facing cancer, Cole shares this optimistic advice.
"Don't be scared and you'll get through it just fine."
If you would like to contribute to Cole's continuing medical costs, you can make checks payable to the Cole Stagner Cancer Foundation:
P.O. Box 1209
Staunton, VA 24402