Child fights incurable brain cancer

Winner of 2016 Associated Press Managing Editors awards, Div. I – 1st place – Best photo story “Tae’s Story”
Winner of 2016 Associated Press Managing Editors awards, Div. I – 1st place – Best video “A Difficult Journey”
Winner of 2016 Associated Press Managing Editors awards, Div. I – 1st place –  Best feature photo “Tae’s story”
Winner of 2016 Associated Press Managing Editors awards, Div. I – 3rd place – Best photo story “A Difficult Journey”
Winner of 2016 Ohio News Photographer’s Association year end – 1st place – News video – “Tae’s story”
Winner of Best of USA Today Network 2016 Awards, Div III. – 2nd place – Video – “Tae’s Story”
Winner of 2016 USA Today Network journalism awards quarter 1, Div. III – 1st place – Video
Winner of 2016 USA Today Network journalism awards quarter 1, Div. III – Finalist photo
Winner of 2016 Ohio News Photographers Association, Feb. clip contest – 3rd place – Photo story
Winner of 2016 USA Today Network journalism awards quarter 3, Div. III – 1st place – Digital storytelling
Winner of 2016 USA Today Network journalism awards quarter 3, Div. III – Finalist photo
Winner of 2016 USA Today Network journalism awards quarter 3, Div. III – Finalist video

Diontae “Tae” Smith of Port Clinton had just turned four when he was diagnosed with stage four glioblastoma, a form of aggressive brain cancer with a low survival rate, generally considered incurable. Photojournalist Molly Corfman and writer Daniel Carson follow him through his journey to fight for his life.

Diontae “Tae” Smith's mother, Brandy Lagasse, gives him medicine at 6 a.m. the morning of a biweekly chemotherapy treatment session. The drive from Port Clinton to Cleveland will take two-and-a-half hours, due to heavy traffic.
A nurse prepares Tae's port, a small disc that sits just under the skin, so that he can receive the chemotherapy drugs.
Tae’s anxiety spikes when his port or the area near it is touched.
Two chemotherapy drugs are fed through the port  and are administered in a 30-minute session, followed by 90-minute session. The second medicine gives Tae nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting.
Tae sticks out his tongue when a nurse asks him to open his mouth at UH Rainbow in Cleveland. Nurses frequently check his vital signs during his treatment.
Tae hides under the covers during treatment as Duncan Stearns, MD, Director, Pediatric Neuro-Oncology, Angie’s Institute at UH Rainbow, uncovers and checks on him.
After a nap and eating snacks, Tae plays video games in the playroom at UH Rainbow while chemotherapy drugs are pumped into him.
Tae is in the middle of a year-long chemotherapy cycle, receiving treatments twice a month. After each appointment, his family says he is sick for days. Dr. Stearns optimistically gives him a 20 percent chance of living two-to-three years after diagnosis.
Diontae "Tae" Smith has a Mario theme cake to celebrate his fifth birthday. He has stage four glioblastoma, a form of aggressive brain cancer with a low survival rate, generally considered incurable.
Tae eats cake and ice cream with friends and family. Thirty-three radiation treatments followed the surgery, and now Tae is in the middle of a year-long chemotherapy cycle.
Brandy Lagasse, Tae's mother, takes pictures of him with his presents at his fifth birthday party. Tae also has mismatch repair deficiency syndrome which makes him especially vulnerable to other cancers developing in his body.
Tae, from right, opens presents with friends Malachi Pavlick, 7, and Kaliyah Boggs, 2. MRI scans in January and February revealed white spots that could be tumor regrowth on Tae's brain.
Brandy Lagasse, Tae's mother, takes pictures of him opening his presents. If Tae's tumor is regenerating, the family is considering two options. Tae could undergo another form of chemotherapy, which could create other forms of cancer in his body, or he can undergo a second brain surgery.
Brandy Lagasse, Tae's mother, takes pictures of him opening his presents. Doctors told the family a second surgery could cause the brain cancer to spread faster through Tae's body.
Tae's followers from all over the world sent him presents for his fifth birthday. About 20 of Tae's friends and family members celebrate his fifth birthday with him.
Tae Smith gets dog kisses with Arryonna Bollett, 12, of Port Clinton. Tae's friends and family try to stay positive while not knowing if he will live to see his sixth birthday.
Diontae “Tae” Smith, 5, rests at a hospice center in Sandusky after spending 16 months in treatments, doctor visits, clinical trials and chemotherapy sessions at different children’s hospitals in Cleveland, Philadelphia and Cincinnati. He had been treated for glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer with a low survival rate, generally considered incurable.
Doctors told Tae he was going to die, and he knew that he didn’t have a lot of time. “We know the ultimate outcome. Nobody wants to face it,”  Brandy says. Tae was four when he was diagnosed, possibly developing brain cancer at age three or younger.
“If we can get five smiles out of him a day, we’re good,” Brandy said. The family stopped chemotherapy because it wasn't working, and started a clinical trial for an immunotherapy drug. Tae's health worsened after his first dose and doctors said he only had days to live.
Tae died Aug. 4, 2016 from glioblastoma brain cancer. From the brain tumor, Tae's left side of his body was paralyzed, (the side without the brain tumor) taking away his ability to walk.
Brandy Lagasse, left, and Alex Smith, Tae's parents, mourn him at a funeral in Findlay. “He would scream,” Brandy said, “’I’m your child. You don’t leave your child. I’m just a child. I don’t deserve this.’”
Tae's family mourns him at Findlay's Mason AME Chapel. Hundreds of friends and family members attended the boy's funeral.
Alex Smith, left, and Brandy Lagasse say a final goodbye to Tae after his funeral service before the casket is closed.
Charismatic, free, full of life, a little boy that included other people even when he struggled with his cancer: that’s how Tae’s parents want people to remember their son. “I’m glad he’s in peace now,” says Tae's father, Alex Smith.