Father and son make long journey to find healing

Father and son make long journey to find healing

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ATLANTA, Ga. -

It's become so familiar, this father-son ritual.

Russell Teasley has been bringing 11-month-old "RJ" to the AFLAC Cancer Center at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta once a week for six months now.

UPDATE: Check out the second video above for a heartwarming update to this story!

And, today, is a good day. Russell says, “I fee ljoy. I feel a lot of joy. Because I'm able to sit here and hold my son."

Everyone here knows Russell's son, his namesake. Russell says, “When he was born, and she gave him to me, the nurse, she said, "Here is your perfect baby boy."

That's the way Russell chooses to see it: RJ is perfect.

When his fiancée, LaShaunda Cole, got a job at a daycare center, he took over taking caring of RJ.

And when RJ was 4-months old, Russell noticed a lump in son's belly. So, he took him to Children's. He says, “they did an x-ray and came into the room to inform me that he had a mass, that it was cancer."

Not just "cancer." Liver cancer. Stage 3.

Russell says, "It took me from earth, I can say that, it took me from earth. To hear that your baby boy has cancer. Your baby."

That day Russell says something in him clicked, "I was, like, whatever it takes, for me to see him, to make it through this. Let's do this."

Children's oncologist Dr. Karen Wasilewski has been treating R-J since the very beginning. It’s been rough. She says, "This is tough chemo, I mean it's every three weeks. Tough chemo, a big surgery. It's kind of unique that the dad is kind of the primary person to bring him, for most of our patients, it's mom that's keeping track of everything.

There have been dark moments, Russell says, “I got tired of my son not eating, not talking, not playing with me."

But Russell says RJ kept him going. He says, "Just looking down at him like now, and he's smiling at me, it gave me the push to move forward, to get it done, to make sure we get here."

Getting - without a car - here means taking MARTA - an hour each way, on a good day, from Southwest Atlanta. On the train, people sometimes offer their seats, say what a beautiful baby, say they're praying for RJ He says, "It was a great experience for him also, because he likes to look up out the window, that helped him feel a lot better."

Dr. Wasilewski says Russell, somehow,  just makes it work. Dr. Wasilewski says, "Watching the two of them together, and how much he loves his son. Loves that little boy. And does everything he can to get him here."

Russell says he never had this with own dad. He says, "The fact of my father, him not being in my life, only made me want to be a father more. Because I couldn't do my kids like that. I could not not be a part of their life."

RJ is now finished with chemo, no more weekly visits. And his curls will soon start growing back. Dr. Waselewski says, "It's been very redeeming to see the good outcome at the end. I think he feels a big sense of relief just to be done with everything."

For now, Russell and RJ have a long trip home.

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