Watching Rotorua's Cory Josephs laughing and running with his little brother, it's hard to believe he's the same boy The Daily Post met early last year.
On Boxing Day 2011, the then 4-year-old was playing with a pogo stick _ a Christmas present _ when he hit himself in the groin. Two days later his parents David and Jo noticed a large swollen mass around one testis and rushed him to the doctor. Weeks later he was diagnosed with a rare, cancerous tumour that was surgically removed on January 26.
Months of chemotherapy followed and in July he was pronounced cancer-free. But the journey didn't end there _ the port through which he received medication remains in case the cancer comes back and has to be flushed regularly. He is also undergoing rehabilitation for his speech and walking, which were affected by chemotherapy.
Despite turning five in July, school was too risky because of his depleted immune system, but all going to plan he should be well enough to finally start at Kaharoa School this year.
Over the past year Cory has been surrounded by seriously ill children, some of whom never got better. He's also lost his beloved dog, two goats, two cats and a sheep. Unsurprisingly he asks lots of questions about cancer and death, which his parents try to answer as honestly as they can.
"We're not going to lie to him but we try not to tell him too much,'' said Mrs Josephs.
While delighted Cory is well again, she said at the back of her mind was the knowledge that the cancer can come back.
"Even though he's clear I am still walking on eggshells,'' she said. "We just enjoy every day, take it as it comes.''
They recently had another scare when their younger son, 19-month-old Levi, developed a growth on his side. Doctors feared it too was cancer.
"My guts just dropped,'' said Mrs Josephs.
Thankfully tests showed it was a rachitic rosary _ a vitamin D deficiency which was put down to the amount of time spent in hospitals.
Mrs Josephs said with medication and plenty of sunshine Levi should be good as new within two years.
It's been an exhausting year and the family are looking forward to some rest and relaxation at the beach this summer after a big family Christmas.
Cory asked Santa for a model helicopter, some blue goggles and a water gun to squirt his dad. But his mum was just happy to have her boy there, after fearing he wouldn't make it to another Christmas.
In 2013 she is determined to become a bone marrow donor and regularly donate blood.
"It's not until you are put in that situation you realise,'' she said. "Give blood _ it's the ultimate gift.''
The family will also keep giving back to Rotorua and Ngongataha communities which raised more than $8000 for them and for whose support they remain eternally grateful.
Most of that money has gone into a trust fund for Cory, who has been inspired by the care he received at Starship and Rotorua hospitals.
"He wants to be a doctor when he gets older and cure cancer,'' said Mrs Josephs.