If the tumor is inactive, David must continue chemotherapy. If it is now a benign mass, he might be able to resume a more normal life, at least for now.
"He's doing well," said his oncologist, Marcie Weil. "Do I think he has viable tumor left or that it will come back? I'm thankful today he looks so wonderful. Yes, I think there's a chance he has viable tumor."
Bryn Grover, left, and Tiffini Dingman-Grover enjoy a playful moment with their son David, who was diagnosed in 2003 with a fist-sized tumor that grew at the base of his skull.
(Bill O'leary -- The Washington Post)
Slouched on a sofa yesterday afternoon, Oreo cookies in one hand, a glass of milk in the other, David watched afternoon cartoons with the intensity of a child who craves a normal routine. The hair missing from spiky bald patches on his head will never grow in, thanks to radiation, his mother told a visitor.
"One day I'll wear a comb-over," David shot back, giggling, his eyes never straying from the television.
Dingman-Grover describes her family members as born-again Christians who believe that David's fate rests not with doctors but with God. She tells the story of a harrowing night in February when David's blood pressure dropped dangerously low, and he called to his mother.
"He said, 'It's time for me to go,' " she recalled, her eyes filled with tears. "It was the first time I filled out a DNR" order.
"What's a DNR?" David asked, missing nothing despite the cartoons.
"It's a 'Do Not Resuscitate' form," she explained gently. "Remember, that was the night the angels came."
David nodded in agreement.
He got up from the sofa to show off one of his prized possessions: a "Chemo Joe" doll fashioned just for him in December 2003 by Hasbro Inc. when he was granted a wish by the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
The doll was made to David's specifications, which included a Joe with three interchangeable heads of hair for each phase of chemotherapy and an attached intravenous line, among other very cancer-patient-centric features.
David won much praise from the Make-A-Wish folks when he offered up his wish to help other young cancer patients at Inova Fairfax Hospital, picking out $750 in toys and delivering them like a pint-sized Santa.
"It is a unique situation when a child has gone through so much difficulty in their life and they come out thinking of other children," said Heather Terry, a community relations coordinator for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. "He's definitely a special kid."
Dingman-Grover can't speculate on her son's future. Whatever the tumor's status, David's cancer is a villain they will track for the rest of his life.
"My husband and I believe you can't think about the 'what ifs,' " she said. "It's about the now. David is here now."