4-year-old brain surgery survivor on mission to live life to the fullest

PHOENIX (FOX 10) -- In many cases, people check things off their bucket list when they only have a short time left to live.

For one valley kid, it's the opposite now that he has his life back.

"Seeing your child go through all of that, you don't really know what the outcome will be and as much as you try to stay positive, you don't really know what's going to happen," said Caterina Lopez.

Last year, 4-year-old Princeton Lopez started experiencing some unusual symptoms.

"It was headaches, severe dizziness, vomiting," said his mother.

Caterina brought him right to the hospital. After a few scans, doctors discovered Princeton had a chiari malformation or structural defect in the cerebellum. That part of the brain controls balance.

"Which was completely a shock to me because I had no idea what that was and what was going to be our next journey," Caterina said.

The next journey for Princeton would unfortunately be brain surgery. Not one, but two at Cardon Children's Medical Center with pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. David Moss.

His first surgery was in May of last year, and the second in September.

"You can see t hat the cerebellum back here does not go down along the spinal cord, yet in Chiari malformation, you'll see this brown part of the cerebellum go right down both sides hugging the spinal cord," Moss said. "So when we do surgery, we do it from the back to open it up here to give room to those parts of the cerebellum that are sticking down along the spinal cord and brain stem."

After the second surgery, recovery was tough, but just days after, Princeton showed just how strong he truly was. He walked by himself.

"It was just incredible because like I said, he was. I had to carry him over there so we were just trying to get him to do something. We didn't expect him to actually walk," Caterina said.

Caterina was so inspired by her son, she decided to start a bucket list for him.

"There are so many things that he's able to see now that he survived his second brain surgery. There's so many things that he's going to be able to see," Caterina said.

Checked off the list so far? Flying in a helicopter, indoor skydiving, riding the Ferris wheel in Paris, walking the red carpet at the Global Gift Gala, and traveling the world.

"To London, California, New York and then we went to Paris. Yeah, Paris," Princeton said.

Princeton and his mom are now on a mission to inspire other children who are going through something similar with their adventures. Their message? To achieve the unimaginable.

"It's great to showcase that you can do it, you can survive, you can get through it and Princeton, I think is just a great example," Caterina said.

Post op, Princeton is going great and should be able to live a normal life. His mother tells Fox 10 there are many more adventures in his near future.