Updated: November 17, 2017 10:03 AM
Memories are built in moments and for the St. George/Ojeda family, moments these days are precious.
"We've always been a tremendously close family, it's kind of gross actually," Jenny St. George, Dexter's mom said jokingly. "It is pretty gross," Manny Ojeda, Dexter's dad, chimed in.
Together they've been creating memories to last a lifetime.
"We went to Universal," 10-year-old Dexter said. "In L.A.," 14-year-old Mat added. "We also got wands from Harry Potter World and we tried butter beer."
The two brothers, Dexter and Mat, are getting to experience it with their best friend.
"He's like everything to me," Dexter said of Mat. "He's like my favorite person."
"Probably the closest brothers you know," Mat said.
Of course like any other siblings, they have their moments.
"We fight a lot," Dexter said. "We used to fight a lot," Mat said. "Still do," Dexter said back. "Not a lot," Mat added.
If they have toned down the fighting, it may be because these brothers understand their moments may be limited.
"Three years ago he kept waking up he had a bump on his head," St. George said.
Dexter was just like any other seven-year-old boy, when a horrific diagnosis changed his life.
"I didn't understand, I was more confused than scared," Dexter said.
"I took him to urgent care and she touched his belly, touched his head, and she said, 'He's either got cancer or mumps,'" St. George said.
"By the time we had a definitive answer to if Dexter had neuroblastoma, they had found at least 15 solid tumors," Manny said.
The diagnosis crushed the family and for a young boy, it was something that was almost impossible to fathom.
"I was just like in shock for about six months," Dexter said.
He fought a battle no child should have to. "I had six rounds of chemotherapy, aka six weeks of torture," Dexter said.
"He was in an incredible amount of pain," St. George said.
The fight was a brutal one, but he faced it head on.
"I didn't think about what I was doing, I just did it because that's what they all told me to do," Dexter said.
The countless treatments, radiation, a stem cell transplant, surgery took from him the childhood every kid deserves.
"I couldn't leave the house very much, I couldn't run, I couldn't walk very far," Dexter said.
After an exhausting year and a half fight, at nine-years-old, finally there was no sign of cancer.
"His blood work was fantastic, his stamina was great, he was up, he was done with physical therapy," St. George said.
Then last April, it returned.
"Out of nowhere, like left field it came back, thunk," St. George said. The news was devastating to their family. "I mean he had no signs at all that it was back," St. George said.
But this time, there would be no cure.
"There are things you can do to perhaps prolong life, but it would include more suffering, more trauma and it wouldn't guarantee any more life," St. George said.
With the support of his family, Dexter decided how he wanted to live.
"Even if I was in the hospital for a week and I get two more weeks, it still isn't worth it, because I would be in so much pain," "So I thought about it and it was really tough."
Dexter decided against debilitating treatment and instead, choosing to enjoy the time he has left.
"He's the one that has to go through it," St. George said. "Yeah the whole family goes through it, but he's the one who needs to lay in the hospital bed, he's the one that has to have poison run through his veins."
For Dexter, choosing to live life meant putting together his own bucket list and crossing things off one by one.
The list included indoor skydiving, riding an elephant, petting a hedgehog, and more.
"See the Hollywood sign and take a picture with it," Mat said. "We've done that."
They're capturing the milestones he may not get to.
"We want him to have as many experiences as possible, because he's not going to be able to be a teenager, he's not going to be able to be an early adult, go to college, or any of those things," St. George said.
This family celebrating every moment they can.
"We don't know how long he has," St. George said. "His doctor said a year, two would be amazing, and there's no telling."
The unknown is the hardest part and even with the heavy weight of his diagnosis, Dexter still thinks about those he'll leave behind.
"I'm mostly scared about like after I die, how it's going to affect everybody else," Dexter said.
"It may be my coping mechanism or my defense, but I try not to go there," Manny said. "My philosophy is today. what can we do for tomorrow, and that doesn't leave me a lot of time to think about what life will be like post-Dexter and that's not really a place that any of us want to be."
"I'm not ready but I'm preparing," Mat said. "We don't really like think about all the sad stuff," Dexter said.
"The best thing we can do is continue to be there for Mat and to honor Dexter as best we can," Manny said.
They're doing that by living each day the way Dexter does, appreciating every moment together and making new memories.
"Spent the night in a tree house," Mat said. "That was so much fun, so much fun," Dexter and Mat said together.
"I got to take Dexter to the Packers/Vikings game," Manny said. "Never in our life did we think that was going to happen," St. George said.
"The reality of it is he fought," Manny said. "And he fought so he could live, so now he's choosing to live.".
"I want to be happy and do stuff while I still can," Dexter said.
The experiences they're doing together enough to build memories that will have to last a lifetime.
To donate and help fulfill Dexter's Bucket List, click here.
Updated: November 17, 2017 10:03 AM
Created: November 15, 2017 12:25 PM
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