Two-year-old Lincoln Maxberry is a heart-melting blur of perpetual motion whose facial expressions during times of extreme silliness are enough to send anyone into fits of laughter.
As I tried to speak with and photograph the gregarious little guy last week, he bounced around the living room of his rural Valparaiso home, poking his finger into my camera lens and barely sitting still long enough to be in focus.
Something else was very out of focus during my meeting with Lincoln last week, but it had nothing to do with his excited inability to sit still for photos.
Blurring Lincoln's appearance as an energetic toddler is an almost unbelievable fact.
He has a 45 percent prognosis for long-term survival.
Lincoln has acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow.
While the prognosis for this form of cancer in children generally is good, Lincoln remains at high risk because of other factors, his mom, Angie Maxberry, a nurse, told me last week.
Lincoln is an unwitting poster child for the financial help I'm asking my readers to contribute today toward childhood cancer research.
Cutting-edge cancer treatments, the kind made possible through research funding, have helped Lincoln survive, and at least outwardly improve, a year after he was diagnosed with the disease.
For the fourth consecutive year, I'm asking anyone who is financially able to donate to my 2019 St. Baldrick's fundraising efforts.
On March 10 in Merrillville, St. Baldrick's volunteers will shave my head clean in solidarity with Lincoln and countless other Region children battling, or who have died from, childhood cancer.
I'm asking you to go online to https://www.stbaldricks.org/participants/mypage/1005482/2019 and donate whatever you can toward what I hope is a very expensive haircut.
Through many years of writing about childhood cancer, I've met the parents of too many children who died of it before reaching their fourth birthdays.
Lincoln and countless other children rely on the money garnered through St. Baldrick's fundraising efforts for better shots at surviving this scourge.
And Lincoln so deserves to survive.
The back story
I first began writing about Lincoln a year ago this month as his mother sat exhausted in the little guy's Chicago hospital room.
The day prior, Lincoln had undergone his second chemotherapy treatment since his January 2018 cancer diagnosis.
At that time, the immune-zapping properties of the cancer-fighting medication had opened the door for flu to infect Lincoln's already struggling system.
Doctors were having an unthinkable conversation with Lincoln's parents.
Angie described it as discussions regarding possible "end-of-life" scenarios for her little boy.
"We had to discuss end-of-life scenarios if this (treatment) doesn't work and what our wishes are," Angie told me at the time last year. "It's so surreal that our once healthy, pain-in-the-butt 13-month-old is now so sick."
But time and treatment can make a difference.
A year later
A year later, little Lincoln has a fine growth of hair on his head, and the sparkle that had been taken from his eyes last year is back.
When I visited Tuesday, he had sure signs of youthful cabin fever, his mother Angie explained. A real fear of life-threatening illness keeps Lincoln inside during these months of rampant colds and flu.
It was a good day last Tuesday when I visited, as Lincoln marked up my camera lens with his fingers and acted as if my presence were a treasure trove of fun.
I don't often elicit that kind of joy from my own children.
"He's just really happy to have visitors," Angie explained. "We just don't get out that much."
There are no trips to Sky Zone or other joyful locations children like for fear of Lincoln catching a common bug that could put him back in the hospital and in fear for his life.
The Maxberry family had its Christmas in shifts this past December, so too many people, and therefore too many germs, weren't present in the house all at once.
Still, Tuesday's visit was a good day for the little guy.
They aren't all so good, Angie cautioned me.
Sometimes the regular cancer treatments affect Lincoln's mood, eliciting fits of screaming and anger.
And there are so many other side effects that a small child should never have to endure.
But those medicines, treatment — and most importantly the continuing research that improves them — are what give Lincoln a fighting chance.
A year later, though he appears healthier, Lincoln's long-term prognosis remains unchanged.
Lincoln still has cancer, and doctors have given him a 45 percent survival prognosis, Angie told me.
Please donate today, if you're able, to my St. Baldrick's account, to improve the odds of all children fighting this disease.
You'll get a good laugh at my expense, watching me go bald yet again.
And you'll help ensure Lincoln can mark up my camera lens with fingerprints for many years to come.