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Pitt County boy showing tough, true spirit in fight against cancer

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GREENVILLE, Pitt County - Rhettec Galaska is standing up to cancer. The 11-year-old Greenville boy was diagnosed with T-Cell Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma when he was 8-years-old.

"It was hard," Rhettec said. "I remember going in there as an 8-year-old, and I'm gonna be needing injections in my legs."

He recently completed his chemo treatments at James and Connie Maynard Children's Hospital in Greenville and is now cancer free. Rhettec endured long hospital stays -- lasting a month at times -- and lost the ability to walk. He fought through the often rough chemo sessions.

"It can make you feel nauseous, make your hair fall out, nails fall out," he said.

Rhettec's family buzzed their hair to show their support for him. His mother, Tommi Galaska, still wears the hairstyle to this day.

"You just have to believe, and you just have to keep pushing to get there," she said.

The family credits their faith with helping them get through the tough times. Rhettec remembers spending an Easter in the hospital, describing it as "a bummer."

?"It's really hard, and there's a chance that you could pass," he said, fighting back tears. "But as long as you can keep on fighting, you can win."

Rhettec is winning his fight. A civic group donated a bell to the hospital to allow pediatric patients to celebrate a milestone when they complete their treatments. In July, Rhettec became the first child at Vidant to ring the bell.

His pediatric oncologist, Dr. Beng Fuh, said he was excited to hear the bell ring.

"I just think it's our community being part of this child's journey and celebrating his journey, and we are so delighted to have that bell," Fuh said.

Fuh said doctors can now cure 80 percent of children with this aggressive type of cancer, thanks to advancements within the past decade. He said he developed a strong bond with Rhettec throughout his treatment and considers him a son.

Rhettec's father, Jeff Galaska, said Dr. Fuh and the staff at Vidant was like family and went out of the way to make them feel welcome and comfortable.

When we visited the family at their Greenville home, Rhettec and his father enjoyed tossing a football in the front yard. He asked his parents if that could count as his physical activity for the day, and they said yes. Even though he's walking again, he's working to improve the functioning of his legs.

Rhettec enjoys playing Little League baseball, building Lego structures and drawing. He was able to return to his school this year -- with his regular classmates -- as a fifth grader.

With hopes of one day becoming a veterinarian, the future looks bright for Rhettec. He encourages the community to support cancer research to help kids and adults like him.

"If you keep on donating, I believe in the future we could get a treatment, an antidote for all this," he said, "and we could stop it."

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