Johnson City, Tennessee (WJHL) – A week after starting his high school career, a Science Hill freshman was battling a rare form of liver cancer in his hospital bed.

Xander Pierce was diagnosed with fibrolamellar cancer, a type of liver cancer that occurs in 1 in 5 million people, according to the National Cancer Institute. He was sent to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis on August 13 and is currently starting his chemotherapy at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

His mother, Mitzi Pearce, told News Channel 11 as she was returning to Johnson City preparing to move to Memphis during the course of Xander’s treatment.

Pierce said he was excited about his son entering high school, who is interested in science and weightlifting. rice field. “He has the best positive attitude I’ve ever met.”

Pierce said Xander, who had just turned 15, felt sick in April.

“He kept saying he had a stomach ache and his back hurt,” Pierce said. “Everything will come back negative. People were scratching their heads wondering what happened.”

This isn’t the first time Xander has fallen seriously ill. He had previously been diagnosed with leukodystrophy, a brain disorder that affects the white matter of the brain.

After a trip to Memphis, the disease was diagnosed as fibrolamellar cancer. Pierce said he had seen only three cases of the cancer before St. Jude.

Xander is in an experimental chemotherapy trial that will hopefully reduce the size of the tumor. “There are different types of chemotherapy cocktails mixed together to see what we can get,” Pierce said. “The goal is to shrink the tumor enough so that it can be resected, hence surgical resection.”

The cancer has metastasized and spread to Xander’s lymph nodes. Additionally, Mitzi Pierce said the tumor had increased in size and was affecting Xander’s inferior vena cava and heart.

Pierce said Xander will undergo four rounds of chemotherapy, but the results are not known at this time. “The schedule is just beginning. Basically, we’ll do two days of chemotherapy, then see how he tolerates it, and then he’ll go to an outpatient location.

Pierce said the chemotherapy was taking a toll on her son. Xander had lost eight pounds since arriving at the hospital.

“He struggles when he’s really not feeling well,” Pierce said. “Days 7 to 10 post chemo, you’re rock bottom. He actually had to get a blood transfusion yesterday.”

Pierce said Monday he was packing for an extended stay in Memphis.

As for Xander, it’s unclear if he’ll be able to return home to Johnson City during chemotherapy. She said life after her diagnosis was a whirlwind and hard for her entire family.

“It’s devastating. In some ways, it’s nice to know what’s going on,” Pierce said. “If it wasn’t for God, I wouldn’t be able to do it. I have my moments. I’m broken and then I have to shake it off and get back up and be a mom.” Because that’s what you have to do.

Pierce has taken time off from her job as a real estate agent to be with Xander, which ties the family financially with medical and housing costs. said it helped them survive.

However, with past financial support, the Science Hill community gave Xander comfort and encouragement, overpowering Pierces.

“I got a call the other day from Tridelta, one of the residential areas. [in Memphis], and they said Mr. Pierce would get Xander’s emails,” Pierce said. “He was probably stacking things three feet high.”

Pierce said all of Science Hill’s athletic departments sent in t-shirts and autographed balls. He also received parcels from Liberty Bell and Indian Trail Middle Schools.

“He said, ‘Mom, look around my room. Look how many people love me,'” Pierce said. “His demeanor was great.”

Pierce said one of her proudest moments was watching her son interact with several medical students observing his lymph nodes.

“He was so excited to be able to help some medical students learn about the lesser-known lymph nodes,” Pierce said. “I’m excited to be able to help people learn from what he’s going through, but at the same time, he’s struggling with it. That’s the reality.”

Pierce said Xander actively shares updates on TikTok, which helps him through the process.

“I mean, vulnerability and the strength that it requires. Most people just hide and give up, but he’s not. He’s determined to succeed,” Pearce said.

If you want to show your support for Xander, Mitzi Pierce said send a postcard from around the country.

To send a postcard to Xander, write to Xander Pierce, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, 262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis, TN 38105-3678.

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