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County honoring young cancer patient

April 29, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- The Washington County Commissioners issued a proclamation declaring today "Christopher Lewis Day" in recognition of the ninth birthday of a local boy who has fought a cancerous brain tumor for more than half of his life.

Chris, the son of Bill and Judi Lewis of Hagerstown, "has spread good cheer to all he has met" and "displayed the heart of a champion and fortitude of a warrior in the midst of suffering, with maturity beyond his years," the proclamation said.

Commissioner James F. Kercheval visited the boy and his family Wednesday to deliver the proclamation, along with Randy Buchman, pastor of Tri-State Fellowship Church.

"We were bowled over," Judi Lewis said. "It was actually pretty amazing."

The family cried as they watched a video of the commissioners presenting the proclamation, she said.

"He's special to us, but we didn't anticipate anything like that," she said.

Chris, once an active, happy child who loved to sing and perform, has been mostly nonverbal since a seizure Dec. 1, Judi Lewis said.

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For his ninth birthday today, she ordered a cake printed with a photo of Chris when he was 6, wearing his favorite orange shirt and a big smile.

The family is having a gathering for family and friends in honor of his birthday, she said.

"Seeing that it may be his last one, we really want to make it special," she said.

Chris has craniopharyngioma, a slow-growing brain tumor, that doctors say is benign with malignant tendencies, his mother said. The tumor was discovered the day after Christmas in 2004, when he was 4 years old.

Since then, he has had four surgeries and undergone an entire summer of radiation. Doctors say there's nothing more they can do, at least surgically, Judi Lewis said. The family is waiting for word from experts at Johns Hopkins Hospital about whether Chris is a candidate for chemotherapy, she said.

Between hospitalizations, Chris attended Hickory Elementary School in Halfway.

"Prior to this last situation, he seemed to be all right," his mother said. "He was active. He was singing, he was dancing ... he'd go down the slide at school."

Two years ago, Chris participated in the school's Jump Rope for Heart fundraiser and, during a celebration at the end of the program, was the first to start dancing when the song "The Twist" started playing, his mother said.

Chris loves country music and, in 2004, got to play tambourine with country stars Brooks & Dunn courtesy of the Make-a-Wish Foundation. He also enjoyed singing with other children at church at the completion of a Vacation Bible School program, she said.

The family has set up a Web page on Caringbridge.org where people can follow Chris's condition and leave messages for his family. The page is at www.caringbridge.org/visit/christopherlewis.

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