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Community plans bass benefit to 'reel' in support for area boy with cancer

Gentry Dokter was diagnosed with liver cancer in December.  (Family photo)
Gentry Dokter was diagnosed with liver cancer in December. (Family photo)(KWTX)
Published: Feb. 27, 2019 at 11:22 PM CST
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CHINA SPRING, Texas (KWTX) People from across Central Texas are trying to 'reel' in support for a six-year-old boy recently diagnosed with cancer.

Gentry Dokter and his family had their world turned upside down in December when his mom found a lump on his torso while waking him up for school.

"(I) just happened to rub my hand on his stomach, noticed a lump, and from there went to his pediatrician," said Gentry's mother Hannah Dokter. "From there, it spiraled."

By the end of the day, after various tests including a sonogram and a MRI scan, Gentry was diagnosed with Hepatoblastoma, a very rare form of liver cancer primarily affecting children age three and under, and, even rarer, the tumor had spread into his lungs.

"It all happened within hours," said Hannah Dokter. "It just literally came out of nowhere."

Gentry was immediately admitted to McLane Children's Hospital in Temple.

"He had surgery and had his port placed for chemo, and they also did an open biopsy on his liver," his mom said.

Less than two weeks later, Gentry swapped his bed at home in China Spring for a hospital bed in Houston to start chemotherapy treatments.

While initial results from the chemo didn't look great, Gentry had a small, but significant, victory this week.

"About a month ago, based on his scans, he was not a candidate at the time for a liver transplant," said Hannah Dokter. "But an oncologist called yesterday and said he'd talked to surgeons in Houston and one of them felt like he might be a candidate now, and we're expecting to hear from them soon."

The 30-year-old mother of two said besides the initial blow, the hardest part for their family has been the "waiting game."

"Those times are real stressful," said Hannah Dokter. "At first, you're afraid to go out, but we've embraced that this is our lifestyle now so we just try to go out and about in the community and do things as normal."

While their situation isn't normal, Gentry's mom says he's still a typical, energetic little boy who loves baseball and bull riding.

His favorite bull riders? J.B. Mauney and Jess Lockwood.

"And Lane Frost!" said Gentry.

"He swears one day he's going to be a bull rider," his mom said.

But the bull riding will have to be put on pause for now; because of his illness, not only can he not play baseball this season, the first-grader at China Spring Elementary had to be pulled out of school.

However, his teacher's have been coming to his house after-hours to help him catch up, and he may get to be a bat boy for his baseball team so he can still be involved in some way.

"He does not understand the magnitude of how sick he is," said Hannah Dokter. "If you ask him, he says he's fine."

According to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, if it's only in the liver and totally removable by surgery, the survival rate for Hepatoblastoma is more than 80 percent; however, for children with tumors involving the entire liver, or have spread outside the liver, the survival rate ranges from 20 to 70 percent, three to five years post-diagnosis.

"As a mother, you know how horrible that it (having a child with cancer) must be, but you really can't understand it until it's happening to you," said Hannah Dokter.

While he's lost his hair and was sick for the first couple of weeks of treatment, his mom says he's feeling much better now.

Gentry, who is quite shy, agreed Wednesday by nodding 'yes.'

Besides bull riding and baseball, Gentry's other passion is fishing, especially with his dad Garrett Dokter.

When community members learned about the outdoor activity that 'hooks' this family together, people decided to throw a fishing tournament, a Bass Benefit, in Gentry's honor to raise money for the family to continue to fight his rare disease.

"It's been really difficult to put into words how thankful we are for the support from the community, from strangers, from our friends and family, how everyone just stepped up and been willing to help out in so many different ways," said Hannah Dokter.

The Gentry Dokter Benefit Bass Tournament is Saturday, March 2 on Lake Waco.

With a $150 entry fee, two-man boat teams will start fishing at safe light, leaving from the Twin Bridges boat ramp in flights of 25. (Spots are still available and teams can register Saturday morning at the ramp).

Weigh-in will be at 12pm at the Shriner's Camp off HWY 6 where the winners will be announced with a lunch to follow ($10/plate except fisherman as meals are included in the 'entry for Gentry' fee), and later a BBQ dinner.

There will also be games, raffles, an auction and some 'surprises' at the event, according to organizers.

The Dokter's said the goal isn't just to raise money, it's to help other families in the same boat by bringing awareness to childhood cancer.

"There's so many kids that aren't getting the attention that we're getting that also need prayer and just (to) raise awareness to childhood cancer and how awful it really is," said Hannah Dokter.