ST. ANNE – Carter Douglas expected better news from the doctors just days after his 21st birthday.
For nine months, the young St. Anne man watched an uninsured experimental treatment shrink a Stage 4 metastatic melanoma tumor on the left side of his neck. That treatment in Florida appeared to curb the deadly disease.
However, doctors discovered the cancer had spread to the right side of Carter’s neck and into his clavicle.
“The doctors told him, ‘We are in an 11th hour here,’” Carter’s mother, Amy Douglas said. “It was a big shocker. We looked at removing the large tumor and found out it was spreading.”
That daunting news didn’t faze Carter. He was an 18-year-old senior at Kankakee Trinity Academy when he learned that a pimple-like tumor was Stage 4 cancer.
Even while undergoing treatments in Chicago, he kept going to school at Olivet Nazarene University.
He initially took a semester off when he relocated to Florida for a non-FDA approved treatment. Now, he is taking a full course load online through the school.
Every day, he prepares himself for a cancer-free life. That’s why his recent prognosis didn’t rattle his faith.
“I want to give back to the world and leave it a better place. I’m not done yet. I have more to do. I’m going to have a good future. I keep my hopes up.”
Carter will spend the rest of the week with his family in St. Anne before heading back to Jacksonville, Fla., early next week to have his tumor removed again on Oct. 9.
Meanwhile, the St. Anne community has a major fundraiser planned for him from 4 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday at the St. Anne Fire Station, where his father, Tim Douglas, is fire chief.
The family-friendly event, known as “A Date with Dumbo,” is based around the Disney movie. It will feature a showing of the movie, a picnic dinner, carnival shows and games, raffles, a silent auction and other events to raise money for Carter’s medical expenses.
“We have a son and mother who are going through a struggle,” event organizer Julie Schoon said. “St. Anne is one big family. We want to do whatever we can to help them.”
Being home has rejuvenated Carter as he prepares for the next battle against cancer.
“Seeing friends and family again is really nice,” he said. “Honestly, my support system keeps me going. People are encouraging me every day. It keeps me going. I fight for all of them, and I’m fighting to get better. I couldn’t have done all of this without everyone’s support. I’m very thankful for them.”
The Douglas family will assess what to do next after Carter’s upcoming surgery. Stage 4 metastatic melanoma has a 10 percent survivability rate beyond one year. However, Carter has battled it for three years with his unwavering faith.
“He isn’t just a survivor. He is an overcomer,” Amy said. “He is pressing forward to have a future, a career and life. He is choosing joy. He isn’t stopping life.
“We are really just going one step at a time. He has done pretty much every trial available to him. Now, we are just grabbing at straws. We are going in faith every day and asking God to lead the way.”
Because of all these early battles, Carter recently decided to switch his major from nursing to marketing. His illness has inspired him to raise awareness to causes that are important to him.
Right now, that cause is living.
“Our generation thinks they have forever to do things with their life,” he said. “Getting diagnosed makes you realize life is short. Now, I take risks. I take chances to live. We don’t live forever. If you want to do something, do it. Be in the moment and enjoy what is here.”