Life for twins returns to normal after cancer battle - WKRN News 2

Life for twins returns to normal after cancer battle

Posted: Updated: March 1, 2014 09:31 AM
MT. JULIET, Tenn. -

The bonds of brotherhood have never been stronger between Bobby and Johnny Harris.

The identical duo has seen many changes and challenges in the last year, but things are getting better.

News 2 first met the Harris' boys in February 2013.  Only six years old at the time, they were all smiles for the camera as part of a feature on 15 sets of twins at Castle Heights Elementary School.

One month later, Bobby got sick.

"They did an emergency MRI real quick and said, 'We've detected a mass,'" John Harris, father of the twins, said of the initial findings. "Of course, it just broke you. It broke me."

The mass was a class 4 medullablastoma, an aggressive brain tumor, and the cancer had spread to Bobby's spine.

Over the next nine months, he suffered through surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, which led to temporary hair loss and permanent hearing loss.

When asked what was most difficult for Bobby's mom, Leticia Harris, she said, "Watching him just, you know, go through all that pain, wishing it was you."

When asked what was most difficult for Bobby, he said he missed being with his brother at school and keeping him out of trouble.

"I don't want Johnny to get in trouble," he said. "I can't be there for him. I really would like to help, but I'm not there for him."

Early into his illness, Bobby took on the name "Pirate Bob" after double vision, caused by the tumor, forced him to wear an eye patch. The name stuck.

"Pirate Bob" sailed through the bad times with Johnny as his matey.

The buccaneers helped raise cancer awareness through events like Sherry's Run, a 5k held in September to benefit cancer patients and their families.

Bobby and Johnny, now seven years old, have never stopped turning toward each other, but now they're looking toward the future.

"I'm cancer free," Bobby said on Wednesday.

Nearly a year since his initial diagnosis, Bobby's once tumor-ridden MRI is clear.

"I'm very happy. I get to keep my son, you know, with us," John Harris said as he looked at his wife, Leticia, beside him.

Bobby and Johnny are tickled, too, mostly with each other. The boys are getting back to being brothers.

"I am good with skateboards, but not tricks, like skateboards," Bobby explained, pleased he is able to play outside again.

Johnny questioned his brother, "You're good with skateboards? Are you sure? Because the skateboard doesn't turn when you turn."

The exchange prompted laughter from others in the room.

The levity is a good indication of the relief that the cancer is gone, but the disease is certainly not forgotten.

Recurrence is possible. Bobby will continue with regular medication and testing for the next several months. Doctors will monitor his progress into his teenage years.

Meanwhile, medical bills are quickly approaching $1,000,000.

The family has been selling T-shirts, bandanas, and bracelets with the "Pirate Bob" logo to raise money to cover medical costs.

"It says 'Pirate Bob - Prayers for Bobby,'" the boys said in unison, reading the bracelet around Bobby's wrist.

Small events have also helped rally support.

On Saturday, the family's largest fundraiser is planned, thanks to the local community.

A benefit basketball game honoring Bobby will be held at Castle Heights Upper Elementary School in Lebanon on Saturday, March 1, at noon.

The Lebanon Police "Peacekeepers" will take on the Lebanon Attorneys "Legal Eagles."

Countless businesses and individuals have donated food and supplies.

The family-friendly event will feature concessions and Pirate Bob merchandise for sale, as well as performances from Lebanon High School groups and appearances by the Chick-Fil-A cow and Scruff the Crime Dog.

Bobby and Johnny plan to participate in the post-game dance-off sponsored by Zaxby's.

As a final question following his cancer-free test results, News 2's Heather Jensen asked Bobby if he would drop the "Pirate Bob" name. He shook his head no, chuckled, and said, "It's kind of a good name."

To make a donation toward Bobby Harris' medical costs, visit any Wells Fargo Bank location and contribute to the "Bobby Harris Donation Fund" or go online to the Bobby Harris Go Fund Me account.

For updates on Bobby's condition, visit the "Pirate Bob" Facebook page.

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