During the Panthers record-breaking 2015 season that ultimately led them to the Super Bowl, a surprising person emerged as the unofficial face of the team. Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert called "Coach" Braylon Beam, 6, the team's inspiration.
"If this little guy can go out and fight for his life everyday, we can go out and fight on the football field," Tolbert said.
We've seen Braylon dance at the hospital, and talk to the Panthers on the sidelines, but few have seen his private battle with cancer. Braylon has a tumor on his optic nerve. Doctors say it's too risky to operate on it, so he gets a chemotherapy treatment once a week to prevent the tumor from growing.
"We try to take it one step at a time," said Dr. Jessica Bell, Beam's doctor at Hemby Children's Hospital. "Always having hope that we can continue to limit its growth, but sometimes these can be life-threatening if they don’t respond any more to chemotherapy."
He has about half a dozen rounds of chemo left before doctors do more scans to make sure the tumor isn’t growing.
His parents noticed something was wrong when Braylon started having trouble with his vision. "We were just really lost, we woke up in tears, we just didn’t know what to think, losing sleep over it," Braylon's father, Jesse Beam said. Braylon's infectious personality, coupled with a big toothless grin makes it hard for many to dwell on the negative.
Braylon's courageous approach to living life to the fullest despite his cancer is the reason he's become a celebrity in the Carolinas. "We go out to eat or even to the grocery store, and people do double takes, and he’ll walk by, and they’ll ask is that Braylon? Are you his dad?"Jesse Beam said. Braylon says he's even gotten a letter from as far away as Germany.
It's helped the Beams focus on Braylon's simple motto: to make this world awesome, you just gotta dance.