A 4-year-old boy fighting cancer not only became an honorary firefighter but was honored by the city with his own official day.
In 2014, River Laurence was diagnosed with Stage IV, high-risk neuroblastoma, a rare cancer that begins in the nerve cells. Doctors said several tumors grew into one large tumor in his abdomen. Joscelyn, River's mother, said the tumor was the volume of a basketball and had wrapped around a major artery, which made part of the tumor inoperable. She said he lost his entire blood volume twice during a surgery in February. She said doctors did not want to remove more of the tumor because there was risk of further damage to his body.
River has undergone multiple rounds of chemotherapy and other forms of treatment. Recently, he went to New York for a vaccine trial. Joscelyn said there are roughly one hundred kids in the trial. River will receive 7 shots over 52 months.
"It's supposed to work with the body to teach the body to fight cancer cells. So, it’s not a vaccine but it works the same way as MMR, chicken pox, essentially. So, that's why we call it a vaccine," said Joscelyn. "We hope that he's not going to relapse. We hope that he's good."
During his time in New York, the New York Fire Department made him and another boy fighting cancer, honorary firefighters. The story was covered by NBC Nightly News. Joscelyn said while it was a special moment for River, it was a bigger deal to be recognized in Converse as an honorary firefighter. On Saturday, a ceremony was held at a fire station for River.
"At the end of the day he still says, well that's great but in November, I get to be a converse firefighter. That's a pretty big deal. I mean, I think he really wants to work here someday. We've joined this family officially now," said Joscelyn.
The firefighters first met River at his blood drive about a year and a half ago.
"He visits the fire station on a regular basis and the guys on the different shifts take care of him. They've made him like one of their own," said Richard Wendt, fire chief. "I told him I'm getting ready to retire in a couple of years and he can most certainly have my spot when that time comes."
The city of converse also recognized River for his bravery. They officially made November 19th, 'River Laurence Day.'
"Regardless of how River's story ends, if he outlives us all, if he doesn't, I hope that the attention that River gets at least helps other people with awareness. I mean, it's always going to be bigger than River," said Joscelyn.
One of the firefighter's wife made a hand-made blanket for River. She stitched in the Converse Fire Department emblem on it. Also, the mayor of Converse, Alfred Suarez, provided River's family with a free thanksgiving meal.