CHARLESTOWN, Ind. -
Nine-year-old Calvin Mullins looks like any other kid showing swine at the fair: sleeveless 4-H shirt, camouflage rubber boots up to his knees, scrub brush in hand.
What fair-goers can't see is the now-empty cavity in his chest that recently held a bigger-than-a-softball-sized spinal tumor just last month.
Calvin Mullins watches passers-by in the stables while spending time with his swine, Clark, Thursday morning at the Clark County 4-H fairgrounds in Indiana. In his first year showing at the 4-H, Mullins was required to wear a protective vest while showing his pig as a precaution from his two surgeries in June. AP
The Marysville, Ind., resident was determined to compete in the Clark County 4-H Fair despite undergoing two surgeries in June to remove the benign mass.
"He looked forward to it so much. He wanted to (compete) the whole time - 'I'll be able to show! I'll be able to show!'" Calvin's father, Josh Mullins, said. "So that was one of our goals to make sure he was able to show as long as the doctors let him."
Doctors discovered the tumor when Calvin woke up complaining of chest pain when breathing deeply. He had just been put on antibiotics for what doctors thought was pneumonia.
A scan and later a biopsy June 5 revealed that he had a ganglioneuroma - a spinal tumor - that had grown so big it reformed his ribcage. He had the rest of it removed June 23.
The news came in the midst of Calvin's mother, Christy, recovering from having a mass in her own chest removed. Christy said tests show her mass is spindle cell cancer, which is treated by removing the mass. She will have another scan soon to determine if there are cancerous masses anywhere else in her body.
Christy Mullins said Calvin has been taking everything in stride.
"It doesn't faze him," she said. "I say this summer sucks, he says it doesn't suck. He said this has been great because he's getting all kinds of attention."
Calvin had to wear a protective vest earlier this week until his oncologist cleared him in case any animals at the fair knocked into him. The vest is bullet-resistant and was borrowed from a petite female state trooper.
Christy Mullins said they've tried to keep a positive attitude about the experience.
"We've joked and played; probably people think too early for jokes," she said.
Christy Mullins said Calvin's energy level has been a lot better since the surgery, even though he's still recovering.
"We've been down here every night," she said of the fair in Charlestown. "I'm completely worn out. He's doing better than I am."
This is Calvin's first year showing animals at the fair. His two swine, Lewis and Clark, placed fourth and third, respectively, in their divisions.
Calvin said he's had a lot of fun showing Lewis and Clark.
"I might do pigs next year, but I'm wanting to do more," he said.
His mother asked him if his surgeries have slowed him down this week.
"Nope," Calvin said. "Not at all."