Drake Quibodeaux, 8, was inducted Friday as an honorary soldier at Fort Polk. The Vinton boy has a terminal brain tumor.
Melissa Gregory, email@example.com, (318) 792-1807
FORT POLK, La. – A Louisiana family says a trip to Fort Polk on Friday was likely the last major event they will attend with their 8-year-old son, who is in hospice care as he battles cancer. During the outing, Drake Quibodeaux was inducted an honorary soldier.
The Vinton, Louisiana, boy was diagnosed in March 2018 with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), a tumor that originates in the middle of the brain stem. Literature describes the childhood cancer as “terminal on diagnosis,” and mother Danielle Quibodeaux touched on that as she spoke to the media.
“We need these days to get us through the hard days,” said Danielle.
She said there were “no words to describe how thankful we are for the experience and the memories that are gonna be made today.”
During the special day at Fort Polk, Drake and his family were treated to tours, demonstrations and loud explosions.
Lt. Col. Sonja Whitehead with the 519th Military Police Battalion administered the oath to Drake. His father, Christopher Quibodeaux, spoke for him and held up his right hand.
Whitehead said the battalion played a big part of making the day memorable for Drake, including a demonstration from its Special Reaction Team.
“It just makes me so proud to see these soldiers really come together and make this special for Drake,” she said. She called it an honor to administer the oath to the boy.
Before he became sick, Drake loved the outdoors and liked to blow stuff up. They still try to live that outdoor life, said Christopher.
The family had been boating on the day Drake began having seizures. Less than a day later, he’d been airlifted to a New Orleans hospital.
After his diagnosis, a doctor told them to go home and make memories. There is no cure for DIPG.
Outlooks are brutal, according to Danielle. Only 5 percent of patients survive a year, and fewer than 1 percent make it two years.
Drake is 10 days away from one year with the disease.
In January, the family was told Drake’s tumor had started to grow again. He didn’t respond to treatment, said Danielle, so the family “is just home, and we’re gonna make the best of every day and enjoy everything God gives us.”
Christopher served in the Army and at Fort Polk. When his son’s small uniform was delivered on Thursday, he said it brought back a lot of memories.
The uniform had the insignia of a four-star general, but Drake had said he wanted to be a command sergeant major, the senior non-commissioned officer at a command. So that’s what soldiers called him Friday.
Danielle spoke about the hardships and heartaches of Drake’s illness. The family copes differently — she won’t cry in front of her son, but Christopher cries “all the time,” she said.
Christopher said he doesn’t hold back in front of his son, whom he called “strong.” If Drake has questions about his illness, they talk about them.
Just days ago, Drake told her he couldn’t see out of his left eye. He’s now wearing a patch to minimize the damage to his right eye. The experience left the boy in tears.
The cancer is taking away Drake’s physical abilities, while leaving his mind functional, she said. Because of that, sometimes his family can’t understand him.
“And he gets so mad, and we just all cry because it’s hard.”
Christopher said the family has come to be close to other families dealing with the cancer. Support from their hometown and social media has been amazing, he said.
Danielle said it’s all about spreading awareness of DIPG. They’ve relied on their faith, family and friends, and she said Drake has been an inspiration.
“He was like, why are y’all crying? God’s got me. I’m OK. I will get through this,” she said. “When we’re weak, somebody’s always there to lift us up. Always.”
The Quibodeaux family has a Facebook page with updates on Drake: “Drake’s Battle with DIPG.”
Follow Melissa Gregory on Twitter at: @MGreg_TownTalk
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