RICHBURG -- The Christmas tree still stands at Joey Roberts' home.
The holiday season will last until Saturday, when Santa's sleigh will be an airplane bringing Roberts' wife, Tessa, and their 2-year-old son, Collin, home to Richburg.
Since November, Collin has been living at the Ronald McDonald House in Memphis, Tenn., while fighting cancer at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Collin should finish the last of his 33 radiation treatments this week.
"He's done extremely well," Tessa Roberts said. "In the beginning, I had one doctor tell me, 'You have to face reality. This could be life devastating. He could not walk. He could not talk after the radiation.' (But) he's doing everything that he did before."
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The last year has been difficult for Joey, a foreman for a company that installs traffic signals, and Tessa, a pediatric nurse at Palmetto Health Richland Children's Hospital in Columbia.
In September, doctors found a large tumor, some 7.1 centimeters long, lodged in the back of Collin's brain. Although surgeons were able to remove all of the mass, cancer cells remained.
The doctors said Collin had a rare type of tumor that develops in on;y about 200 children in the United States each year. Chemotherapy hasn't been effective in treating this cancer. Radiation was the better option, but the treatment is rarely performed on children younger than 3 because of concerns that it could harm brain growth.
Tessa's research led her to a doctor at St. Jude who could perform a specialized form of radiation on children. Some doctors cautioned her about allowing Collin to undergo radiation at such a young age. Her instinct told her St. Jude was the right choice.
Meanwhile, word of Collin's battle spread fast throughout Chester and Lancaster counties. Bikers, firefighters, family and friends held fundraisers for Joey and Tessa.
St. Jude paid for Collin and Tessa's flight to Memphis, along with housing and meals, but the donations helped Joey and Collin's 3-year-old sister, Katie, join them for some of the holidays.
Now the family's journey is almost over.
"I'm so ready to come back home," Tessa said. "Your days kind of just run together here. I'm exhausted."
Collin's grandfather, Richard Collins, is ready for them to get back, too.
"We can't wait," he said.
Although the ordeal has been difficult, Tessa said she's found comfort in the messages posted on Collin's page at the CaringBridge Web site.
"It just amazes me," she said. "Because so many of those people who left the comments ... I've never met a day in my life."
For updates about Collin Roberts' progress or to leave well wishes, visit the Caring Bridge Web site at www.caringbridge.org/visit/collinroberts.