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Survivor who helped kids with cancer faces new fight

8:02 AM, Apr 23, 2013   |    comments
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  • Connor McMahon, 11, is in his second fight against cancer. After his first battle with leukemia, he helped other young patients who needed a lift.
  • Connor McMahon and Reece McPhail are both battling leukemia. They became friends when Connor helped Reece join his hockey team for a special play.

ALPHARETTA, Ga. -- Connor McMahon, 12, considered himself a cancer survivor until a sore back last month sent him to the Aflac Cancer Center at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite.

"They asked my parents if they would like to talk in the hallway," Connor told 11Alive's Jennifer Leslie. "When they came back in the room, they said there's a very good possibility that you have cancer, again."

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The same kind of cancer he battled as a 3 year old was back.

MORE | Send a message of encouragement to Connor here

Connor immediately began chemotherapy treatments for acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

"I told Connor, 'You're in the best place in the world right now. They're gonna cure you, just like they cured you the first time,'" said Don McMahon, Connor's dad. 

Connor was considered cured four years ago.

That's when he came up with a program called "Connor's Hope." It was a way for Connor to give back by delivering gift bags to cancer patients.

Connor, a hockey nut and star goalie, developed a special connection to one of the patients, Reese McPhail, who's also a huge hockey fan.

Connor and his family arranged for Reece, 9, to skate with Connor's team and shoot his first goal in February. 

No one could imagine then that Connor's cancer would return one month later.

"It's like the opposite now," Connor said. "Reece is now coming to me and saying, 'Never give up hope.' That's after I was telling him, 'Never give up hope.' So it's pretty cool."

Talk about cool. Connor's hospital room is covered with hockey memorabilia that was sent to him after his cancer returned. 

Connor's favorite player, Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers, sent him a autographed goalie stick.

"Not many kids get one of these," Connor said of the stick. 

Marc-Andre Fleury of the Pittsburgh Penguins signed a jersey for Connor. And Nik Antropov, a former Atlanta Thrasher who now plays for Winnipeg, sent him a video greeting. 

"I just wanted to wish you a speed recovery," Antropov said. "Stay strong and keep your head up, buddy."

Harry Douglas, a wide receiver for the Atlanta Falcons, sent him a video message, as well. "I want to commend you for being the fighter you are. I want you to know you have my support," Douglas said.

Connor's family is also trying to boost his spirits.

His dad and younger brother shaved their heads after Connor lost his hair from chemotherapy.

"It helps a lot," Connor said. "It makes me feel like people care, and they're there to support me."

Connor's classmates at Twin Rivers Middle School in Gwinnett County created "Connor's Cure" bracelets to raise money to help pay for his medical bills. 

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