First day of school comes 81 days late for young local cancer patient

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CHINA SPRING, Texas (KWTX) He may have missed his traditional first day of school photograph, but 81 days later proud mom Hannah Dokter got to snap the picture of her son headed out for his “first day” of school, a photo she at times feared she’d never be able to take.

Gentry Dokter 7, posed for the traditional back-to-school photo with his sister, Emory, 3. (Courtesy photo)

Gentry Dokter 7, of China Spring has been fighting hepatoblastoma, a very rare form of liver cancer.

He hasn’t been to school since his diagnosis on Dec. 4, 2018, but after “ringing the bell” just days ago at McLane Children’s Oncology Clinic in Temple signifying the end of treatment, Gentry returned Thursday to China Spring Elementary School after smiling for the camera in a traditional back-to-school photo.

“We may be late but FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL PICTURE! Out of 6 pictures this is the best there is...no shocker there!” his mother Hannah posted.

At one point doctors thought Gentry would need a liver transplant, but instead the second grader had nodules removed from his lungs and the majority of his liver removed.

He endured months of chemotherapy and many scary days that left Hannah and her husband Garrett concerned the first day of school pictures would never happen.

“Yes, I think every parent whose kid has been diagnosed with cancer, those thoughts cross your minds,” Hannah said.

Gentry’s parents said they were open with the young boy about his condition, but never the seriousness of it.

She said China Spring ISD has gone above and beyond to also keep life as normal as possible for a 7-year-old mostly confined to his home.

“The school sent over a teacher every week. She was coming about four hours every week. The school has been amazing, absolutely amazing,” Hannah said.

Thursday, Gentry made his first appearance in Mrs. Magnuson’s second grade classroom.

Hannah and her husband Garrett walked their son up to the school and said it was an emotional moment as her son worried about his bald head and was apprehensive about leaving his parents who’ve been with him every day for almost a a year.

“He just worried about being bald. He was crying and didn’t want us to leave, but they took him to the counselor’s office and helped him,” Hannah said.

“Whenever he started crying it was all me and my husband could do to hold it together. Once I got in the car I was a mess. Just the fact that he has to go through that. All of it. The fact he’s had to go through all of it and make changes and worry about what he has to, it’s a lot.”

Hannah said her mom heart was comforted when her son returned home from his first day of school and said it was “great.”

Friday’s drop off went more smoothly as Hannah let Gentry out of her car in the regular drop-off line and didn’t walk him in.

“I came home and it was quiet and I really miss him, too,” Hannah said.

“I am happy for him. Just happy he gets to be around kids and play again.”

Gentry will return Nov. 25 for a checkup at McLane Children’s hospital in Temple.

He’ll then return once a month to flush his cord and do some blood work as well as scans to make sure everything stays clear and stable.