PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A little boy who loved Mustang cars was just 7 years old when he was diagnosed with the worst kind of brain cancer.
“Eli was diagnosed in 2011 with medulloblastoma, which is a brain cancer,” said Kristie Williams, Eli’s mom. “On paper, Eli was basically a dead man walking.”
But what the paper work didn’t show was a little warrior who became known as Eli “The Eliminator” Williams.
Over a period of six years, he had a half-dozen brain surgeries, chemo and radiation. Then when everything failed, the family found hope at the Georgia Cancer Center, Augusta University.
“When we went to Dr. Johnson, Eli had been rejected for 10 to 15 experimental trials,” said Williams.
Johnson’s research focuses on terminal pediatric patients. He hopes to maybe someday to find a cure, but first it’s aimed at providing extra time.
“Offering a hopeful option to families and children who don’t have a lot of treatments available to them,” said Johnson.
Johnson is testing an immuno therapy used in combination with chemo and radiation.
“We’ve seen a lot of kids’ symptoms improve for a lot of kids, we’ve seen their quality of life improve,” said Johnson.
“Because of Dr. Johnson’s compassion and vision for the benefits of palliative care, we gained another 16 months with Eli,” said Williams.
It was a critical 16 months for Eli’s family, time he spent building special memories with his little brother Kalib, and his big sisters, too.
“Eli was able to enjoy quality of life higher than most kids who have been cured,” said Williams.
A primary funding source for Johnson’s work comes from the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.
“Without that funding, it really wouldn’t have been possible, so I credit Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for bringing this treatment out of the lab and into the clinic for children,” said Johnson.
That was the dream for Alex Scott who died of neuroblastoma as she wanted to turn lemons into lemonade and help other children fighting cancer.
When Eli’s mom learned that Alex’s Foundation was back Johnson, she felt a special connection.
“My heart jumped,” she said. “I knew there were parents behind the organization that knew what I was going through.”
Eli lost his battle last year at the age of 12. Like Alex’s parents, Eli’s parents created a foundation to raise money for research, hoping to spare other families the heartache.