11-year-old battles rare cancer over the holidays, again

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11-year-old Robby loves baseball, his sister, and dog Beau. But a diagnosis put all that on hold.

“They thought it was appendicitis and it wasn't. They found out it was a large mass in his abdomen,” Lisa Spanbauer said.

“I'm tired but I'm doing good overall,” Robby said.

Robby had Extra-renal Wilms Tumor, a cancer that only affects a handful of kids a year. After five surgeries, and rounds of chemo, the cancer returned to his lungs. But his parents say he's tough and a hero.

“I sometimes have to miss school. And I know a lot of sixth graders who would like to do that,” Robby said.

“It's devastating. It's devastating,” Lisa Spanbauer said. “Because you want him to go back to school with his friends. You want him to be able to do sports again.”

The family had to move to Cincinnati for three months after Robby was first diagnosed. Mom Lisa says that bill alone totaled more than 1 million dollars.

“I have good insurance but it doesn't pay for everything,” Jim Spanbauer said.

“It's very upsetting as a parent, because your child is very sick. But not only that but they don't have the outlet, the socialization, the peers, the normal interaction,” Lisa Spanbauer said.

Now Lisa and dad Jim want to thank the Anthony Wayne family for all the meals, rides, homework help, and prayers.

“To boost him up, which we thought was just wonderful, he loved, he got to throw out the first pitch for baseball,” Lisa Spanbauer said

After six months of remission, just as Robby starting getting strength back, the cancer returned.

“For Thanksgiving, he was so sick last year,” Lisa Spanbauer said. “For Christmas we weren't together as a family.”

This time, the family will be at Mott Hospital for another go at chemo and a bone marrow harvest.

“I've got to get outpatient chemo every single day of the week,” Robby said.

“Just to take in all of this is completely overwhelming,” Jim Spanbauer said.

And that's where Beau comes in.

“He's my buddy. He helps me out a lot,” Robby said.

The family hound spends days with Robby on the couch. Jim is the inspector general with the 180th and tells us Beau reminds him of dogs the military uses.

“You see these kinds of things with guys that come home from war, and have therapy dogs. And they just have a sense. They know when that person isn't feeling right,” Jim Spanbauer said.

“You don't want to see your child go through more pain,” Lisa Spanbauer said.

The family says there's good news in the prognosis, though treatment will continue for months.

“I know that I'm going to do good with what's coming up, and that it will soon be over,” Robby said.

On those countless drives back and forth to Mott, the family's 11-year-old van repeatedly broke down. While Robby’s teachers are hoping for a new vehicle, the family is just thankful to have their son.