Like most teen girls, Areiel Brown loves to show off her prized possessions.
As Areiel proudly showed us her homecoming queen crown and a soccer trophy, there was an unmistakable sadness in her eyes. At 13, she has been through more medical procedures than most of us will endure in a lifetime.
Whether it is really how she feels or just echoing her parents' opinion, she wants Child Protective Services to butt out.
"I want CPS to get out of my life," she said.
She wants her parents to decide what medical treatments are best for her.
"Cuz they love me and CPS is evil," she said.
Doctors at two world-renowned Houston hospitals would dispute that. They went toe to toe with Aeriel's outspoken dad. Eric Brown said he had no regrets.
"Not one because I'm doing the right thing," Eric said.
Aeriel's saga began early in 2012. For some reason, she could not seem to stay awake, not even during volleyball practice.
"Couldn't keep her eyes open at all," Eric said. "I'm like, Aeriel, wake up, wake up, and she couldn't open her eyes and I'm like, this is more than sleepiness."
A trip to the emergency room revealed a mass in the little girl's head. Surgery was performed to relieve fluid from her brain. Three emergency surgeries were performed on Aeriel in as many days.
"We need to sign another anesthesia thing. Ok, this could kill her, this could kill her. You got to sign this," Eric said.
Then the most distressing news of all came.
"I was so hysterical and so upset," Areiel's mom, Angie, said.
Doctors diagnosed Aeriel with a rare form of brain cancer. They said chemotherapy needed to begin as soon as possible.
"They kept saying chemotherapy. We need to start right away or she would die," Angie said. "We had to make a decision. We had to make a decision that day."
The Browns said they were asked to sign a medical document regarding a research study. That caused Eric to question what doctors were telling him.
"I did not bring my daughter in for research," Eric said. "I refused to sign the paper. The doctor gets upset, saying what's wrong with you? Most parents just sign the paper. I said well, I'm not most parents."
Eric was about to show doctors how not like most parents he really was.
The Browns said all their questions prompted hospital officials to call CPS. CPS accused the couple of medical neglect in court.
"You ask too many questions, everybody look at ya like you're a trouble maker," Eric said. "You're asking questions. It's what I'm suppose to do. It's my daughter. I need to know what's going on."
In the months that followed, Aeriel's brother, Mike, began filming the ordeal for a documentary, his little sister's fight for her life and his dad's battle with CPS.
"Parents make right and wrong decisions all the time," Judge Eric Andell said. "The question is: is a wrong decision life threatening?"
Andell had to answer that question when the CPS case against Eric ended up in his court. Eric said he had to represent himself because of financial reasons.
"The doctor said without chemotherapy, this child would die in all likelihood. That was his testimony," Andell said.
He said the Browns offered no evidence or testimony to the contrary. Eric said doctors advised him to the contrary but were unwilling to testify in court.
"I made a decision. I thought we should go ahead with chemotherapy," Andell said. "Thankfully, the child is cancer free."
But that didn't happen without five rounds of chemo, and when Aeriel became cancer free depends on who you ask. The little girl lost her hair, but her dad said she also lost her short-term memory while suffering even more medical maladies.
"She's on tons of medication," Eric said. "I've got stacks of all medicines she's been on. Just read the side-effects."
Eric has medical documents he interprets as saying Aeriel's cancer was never malignant but when the judge told him to bring in a medical expert to testify to that, Brown couldn't produce one.
Even though the state said she is cancer free, CPS wants the judge to order five weeks of radiation for Aeriel. Doctors say that procedure is needed to ensure the cancer does not return.
"Why do we need to do radiation? Why take her through that? She don't have a tumor in her head," Eric said. "They want me to take her and stick her in a microwave for five days a week for five weeks straight."
"The doctor could not testify that it was immediate and life threatening," Andell said.
This time, the judge ruled in Eric's favor, giving back the parents' right to make medical decisions for Aeriel and ordering CPS out of their lives.
"I made the decision. I did not find there was an ongoing threat of harm and danger," Andell said. "I may be wrong, but I found there wasn't."
Of course, Eric's final victory in court means no five weeks of radiation for Aeriel. Now, even those who opposed the stubborn but loving dad are praying his decision is the right one.