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Boy’s dream soars after cancer diagnosis

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DENVER -- Bucket lists aren’t meant to be written by 15-year-old boys. But that’s what a young man from Douglas County had to do when he received a frightening diagnosis.

In July, doctors told Joshua Hetherington the bad news: He had a rare brain tumor the size of a tennis ball growing within him.

“It kind of gets frustrating because you have dreams, but you don’t know if you can do them,” Hetherington said.

Some of those dreams included riding in a tank, watching a veterinarian work and flying in a plane.

“I originally wanted to be in the military and be a drone pilot,” Hetherington said.

If there’s anyone who knows what that dream is like, it’s a teenager named James Briggs. Briggs, 17, had also been diagnosed with a brain tumor. He was 5 years old at the time.

Briggs was fortunate, though; he was able to conquer his battle with cancer within a year.

“I’m lucky but some other people aren’t,” Briggs said.

Briggs’ mother heard about Hetherington’s story through a Facebook group. She contacted Hetherington’s mother, letting her know her son is a pilot and would be willing to help Joshua accomplish one of his bucket list goals.

“I had a brain tumor and he’s got one. Hopefully, it will be cleared up, but I thought it would be a good thing to take him up for a flight and knock something off his bucket list,” Briggs said.

On Monday, the teens set off on a high-flying adventure. They soared over the Mile High City, Sports Authority Field at Mile High and caught an amazing glimpse of the Rocky Mountains.

“It just kind of made me happier that people support my efforts to fight this,” Hetherington said.

He said he is feeling better. In fact, his last MRI showed things are looking pretty clear. His doctors did warn the rare type of cancer he has has a tendency to pop back up unexpectedly.

Which is why Hetherington is looking to accomplish more goals on his bucket list.

They include:

  • Have a "family reunion" while in New Zealand (in process with Make a Wish)
  • Fire on something in a tank -- or at least be in one/watch one doing maneuvers
  • Visit Germany to see the big World War II museum
  • Visit Peter Jackson’s WWII exhibit at Te Papa in New Zealand
  • Tattoo –- specifically something Maori/tribal.
  • To pet a Kiwi (but since you aren’t allowed to do that, maybe go behind the scenes and see them behind the glass)
  • Getting to see behind the scenes at a zoo
  • Spend a day with a vet (not sure if large animal or small yet)
  • Ride a horse
  • Learn how to make armor/swords
  • Diving experience; maybe Joshua isn’t quite sure on this as he’s not a big swimmer
  • Learn how to fire a handgun at a range
  • Help build a house with Habitat for Humanity
  • Learn how to ski -- water or snow
  • Go see Panic at the Disco or One Republic in concert
  • Go to Game-Con aka E3

To help make Joshua's dreams come true, visit his website:  www.team-josh.com