DECATUR, Ala. (AP) — Wearing an orange shirt, khaki shorts and a big smile, Braxton Voss wasted little time running through the halls of Priceville Elementary during orientation.
His mother and two brothers were not far behind. They smiled, too.
Braxton, who was diagnosed with leukemia just hours after finishing his first day of school last year, has been cleared to rejoin his classmates. He will be among the more than 8,000 Morgan County students to return when classes resume Thursday.
"He's so excited, but I have mixed emotions," mother Doriel Voss said. "He can take a turn for the worse at any time, and that scares me."
Braxton, 8, and twin brother Bentlee will be third-graders in teacher Easton Eubanks' classroom. She's familiar with his medical condition, which means keeping a close eye on him to make sure he's not running a fever.
"Sanitation wise, we're going to keep the room as clean as possible," Eubanks said. "If we have kids that are sick, we'll especially keep a closer check on Braxton."
Priceville Elementary Principal Cherie Humphries said they'll also let Braxton use the restroom in the teacher's lounge.
"I can't start to imagine what it's like to be away from school for a year, so we're going to do everything possible to keep him here the entire school year," Humphries said.
The smiling, energetic Braxton who walked into Priceville Elementary on Monday for orientation was the student teachers saw Aug. 19, 2013.
After Doriel picked up the kids at school a year ago, Braxton had knots on his neck when he arrived at his grandmother's home.
She rushed him to his pediatrician. Aafter he drew blood twice, the doctor told the family Braxton had a bad infection or leukemia.
The following morning, she took Braxton to Children's of Alabama, a hospital in Birmingham, where doctors diagnosed his illness as T-cell leukemia, a cancerous condition characterized by an abundance of abnormal white blood cells. His white blood cell count was 16,000 when he arrived at the hospital and increased to 34,000 a day later. The normal count is between 5,000 and 9,000.
Doriel said the bad white blood cells were bursting, and the toxin level in her son's body had increased from 27 percent to 97 percent. Braxton was in the hospital six days.
His mother was hopeful he would return to school after Christmas, but Braxton's life for almost six months was confined to the walls of the family's home in Point Mallard Meadows.
He was tutored at home, and few visitors were allowed.
About three weeks ago, the family had doubts about whether Braxton would return to school this year. Doriel said Braxton was in Children's Hospital 19 days before being discharged last Wednesday after tests showed he was getting better.
His doctors gave him the OK to return to school. Braxton will be tested Wednesday to make sure he is still OK.
"I hope he gets to come back," older brother Parker Voss, 12, said. "I can tell he's happy, and I don't want him to be sad anymore."
Second-grade teacher Jackie Teague and a homebound teacher helped Braxton last year. Teague used FaceTime to keep Braxton connected to his classmates. She also visited his home at least once per week.
"He's amazing and a very smart kid," Teague said. "It took him very little time to figure out what was going on."
Teague was familiar with the family because she helped Doriel when she was diagnosed with cancer three years ago. Doriel had 33 radiation treatments, six months of chemotherapy and is cancer free.
"This is an amazing family, and I don't mind going the extra mile," Teague said.
Information from: The Decatur Daily, http://www.decaturdaily.com/decaturdaily/index.shtml