7-year-old Georgia boy uses entertaining personas to cope with cancer treatment

Turn on Michael Jackson, and DaKodah Searcy is going to dance, with his Batman socks sliding across the hardwood floor in the playroom of the Atlanta Ronald McDonald House on Gatewood Avenue.

His grandmother and caregiver, Nicole Hart-Boykins, says DaKodah likes making people laugh.

"He works really hard to please people, to make you happy, just to make the day joyful and joyous," Hart-Boykins says. "That's how he spends every day."

The Crawford County second-grader knows every word to every Michael Jackson song.

And when he's not dancing, he's practicing his wrestling moves. Part of his goal is to become a professional wrestler just like his idol, John Cena.

"I think he looks at John Cena, and he sees his strength," his grandmother says.

Hart-Boykins and his dad Brandon Searcy have seen DaKodah's strength at work over the last five months. In the final few days of first grade, he began having seizures.

"It was May 23 when the first seizure happened," Brandon Searcy says. "I was at work. I got a phone call saying he had a seizure at school."

That was the beginning of nearly continuous seizures, his grandmother says.

"They were still becoming more aggressive each day and just really putting his body through a lot," Hart-Boykins says.

At Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite, DaKodah underwent a series of brain scans, then a biopsy. 

It revealed he has a bithalamic high grade glioma, an extremely rare brain tumor.

"You have certain expectations, when you hear, ‘Oh, brain cancer, my goodness.’" she says. "But you look at him, and you see anything but that. And, because he feels so great, this battle has not really registered for him, because he feels like himself.

But DaKodah understands why they have come to Atlanta and Ronald McDonald House Charities.

"We're going to get better," he says. 

To get there, he wakes up, and heads to the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, where, putting on a wrestling mask designed just for him, he is undergoing brain radiation therapy.

"But as soon as he can get back, he's ready to get downstairs and see what's all in there that we can play with today, and repeat again later today," his grandmother says.

This is the Searcy family's first stay with Ronald McDonald House, where the families of patient in treatment pay what they can or get a pass if they can't contribute towards their stay.

"This place has meant an enormous amount of relief for myself and my family," Hart-Boykins says.

"It's comforting. Makes you feel like there is actually somebody that cares and is trying to help the actual sick people that needs the help," Brandon Searcy says.

DaKodah Searcy's family knows this is just the beginning of a difficult road ahead.

"But he has the willpower and the mindset, and he knows he's strong enough to be whatever he puts his mind to," his grandmother says. "DaKodah has this determination. He says, 'I'm better,' not ‘I will be better.' 'I am better.’"