ELKHART — Adler “Bear” Carris has battled cancer most of his life.

But despite chronic pain and unpredictable trajectories he’s endured, the 9-year-old Elkhart boy remains optimistic, strong and happy, said his mother, Elizabeth Carris.

“Even in pain, he’ll say, ‘I’m happy,’” Elizabeth said of her son. “Adler understands the severity even at such a young age and being diagnosed he’s just happy to be alive and be here.”

“He’s a ray of light,” she continued. “Our theme song is ‘Bold as Love,’ by Jimi Hendrix because it’s about a rainbow and we’ve always attributed this journey to a storm and Adler is the rainbow in that storm.”

At the age of 4, Adler was diagnosed with metastasized pilomyxoid astrocytoma, a rare form of pediatric brain cancer, at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago after severe pain in his buttocks.

He also has hydrocephalus, a condition in which too much liquid is on the brain and adrenal insufficiency. His condition is inoperable, Elizabeth said.

“In the beginning, we were told Adler had a 40 percent chance of living, and God willing, he’s 9 now,” Elizabeth said. “But unfortunately, this is a never-ending journey when it’s inoperable. There’s no remission and there’s no finish line.”

Every day Adler suffers from chronic pain, Elizabeth said, and the family recently got news that his tumor in his cervical spine had grown. He had his six month MRI and it showed a change. His oncologist took it to the tumor board and discovered that the tumor has been slowly growing over the past two years.

Adler went to Lurie Children’s Hospital Tuesday for a biopsy and testing for a BRAF mutation. If he tests positive, he’ll be treated with oral chemotherapy. If not, he’ll need a port placed and will have IV chemotherapy treatment again.

On Wednesday, the family reported on Facebook that his surgery went well.

“His talented team of doctors were able to remove a good amount of the tumor,” the Facebook post states. “It will take several weeks to get the molecular testing back, which will map out the plan for treatment. Adler is feeling quite uncomfortable, but is happy to be done with surgery. He just finished up his post-surgery MRI and fully plans on napping and eating all the popsicles and ice cream that he can get! Keep positive thoughts and prayers coming for Mr. Bear.”

As his fight continues, so do his family’s medical bills.

To that end, a benefit is being set Saturday to help the family offset those expenses.

The event is scheduled from 1 to 4 p.m. and will be at the LEX 530 Event Center on 530 E. Lexington Ave.

According to organizers, the benefit will feature local vendors in a marketplace atmosphere and silent auction items. It will also include food and beverages, balloon animals, pictures with superheroes and princesses and the new Adler t-shirt.

Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children.

Aside from easing the family’s financial burden, Elizabeth said she and her family want to use the benefit as a way to spread awareness to the community about the impact cancer has on children.

Cancer is a leading cause of death for children, with 300,000 new cases diagnosed each year among children age 0-19 years, according to the World Health Organization.

“It’s a tough road that these kids have to go on and if we can spread a little awareness to the community and get people together and make some money along the way, then mission accomplished,” said Elizabeth.

Additional donations may be made on Adler’s GoFundMe page.

The benefit

What: Adventure for Adler and Marketplace and Silent Auction Benefit

When: Saturday, July 20, 1 – 4 p.m.

Where: LEX 530 Event Center, 530 Lexington Ave., Elkhart

Cost: $10 per adult, $5 for children for admission

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