Before April, 5-year-old Caden Edwards enjoyed a normal life -- he likes to play T-ball, spend time with his dogs and, if he really knows a person, enjoys telling jokes.

He began to experience headaches, nausea and fatigue, his mother, Ashley, said.

After seeking help from a pediatrician, he was prescribed migraine medication, and when he returned to the doctor for a wellness check, Caden did not do well on the vision screening.

He was taken to the family's optometrist in Clinton, and it was from there that his condition seemed to be more than migraines, Mrs. Edwards explained.

The doctor said his optic nerves were swollen -- an unusual and alarming occurrence in a boy so young -- and was referred to Duke for a CT scan.

It was April 22, when Caden was diagnosed with craniopharyngioma after the scans found a tumor in his brain.

Two days later he underwent his first brain surgery, she said.

"He had a lot of hydrocephaly," Ashley said.

"The tumor was like a bathtub stopper and closed off the path to drain fluids."

The surgeon was able to remove some of the tumor -- but not very much -- and Caden's hydrocephaly improved, but that would not be the end of this tumultuous time.

Ashley, along with Caden's grandmother, went to Memphis, Tennessee, to St. Jude's Children's Hospital for the next procedure on July 20 that removed 90 percent of the tumor.

"It came out of nowhere," she said.

"It changes your life in an instant. But you have to give control to God. We are very fortunate for St. Jude to accept us, its a wonderful hospital."

She said Caden is recovering from the surgeries well, and she and her husband, Lee, do what they can to make his time in Tennessee as normal as possible.

"He does pretty good. He doesn't think we are actually at a hospital," she said.

"My husband flies out on the weekends. We go out and go to the museum and the movies. And we kind of check out a couple of things here. He is very tired a lot, and I assume we all would be if we had two brain surgeries in three months."

Caden still has radiation treatments to endure that will further shrink the tumor.

"They are wanting everything to get healed some before the radiation starts," Ashley said.

She said they will return to Mount Olive for an eight-week period while Caden heals before returning to Memphis to get the radiation treatment.

In the next phase of his treatment, she knows the short-term side effects of radiation. They are fatigue, bald spots and nausea, but as to the long-term effects in a child so young, she says she doesn't know.

"We are doing better now than we were back when we were at Duke," she said.

"God is in control of all of this. We have had to rely on our faith and pray for things and ask for complete healing. The unknowing is what causes me the most anxiety -- what is he going to be like in five years and 20 years?"

In the depths of uncertainty and financial stress, the Edwards family has gotten support from their community of Mount Olive and Smiths Chapel.

Danny Jackson along with Michael Odom and Doug Grady are selling raffle tickets to benefit the family.

The trio went to a sportsman event last year and won a 12-gauge Benelli. They decided to donate the gun for the raffle prize to benefit Caden, Jackson said.

"One ticket is $5 and five tickets are $25," Jackson said.

"The main thing is travel expenses. Caden's father is working and traveling back and forth on the weekends."

The drawing for the rifle will be Aug. 25.

The cost of travel for Caden's father is expensive, Mrs. Edwards said, with a round-trip plane ticket to Tennessee costing the family $500.

"We are grateful," she said.

"We have had an outpouring of support from the community."

For more information about purchasing a raffle ticket to benefit the Edwards family, call Jackson at 919-635-1222.