Parker Shanton is five years old and the youngest of three children of my cousin Mike and his wife, Erica. I asked Mike to provide a glimpse of who Parker is for this blog and a little about his condition. Below is his beautiful description:
“Parker is what you would call an over-the-top excessively brave kid. I truly believe he feels he is indestructible. This past summer he would actually try to play chicken with his two older siblings on their bikes while he was on his big wheel. Needless to say, while we would tell him no, he would continue to test us and just “laugh in the face of danger” and the thought of being squished by his 11-year-old sister or 9-year-old brother. The word brave just doesn’t seem to do him justice.
In March of 2010 he took a dive into a curio cabinet while running down our hallway and sliced his forehead open. Thirty stitches and 24 hours later, he tried showing Erica how he could jump off the couch onto another piece of furniture. Parker never slowed down until June 28, 2011. It is amazing to look back over such a short period of time and start to see how God gave Parker this personality for a reason. Little did they know, the reason would be partly shown to them through one of the toughest, trying experiences of their lives.
In late June 2011, because of Parker’s daring big wheel episodes and everything else crazy he did, we started seeing some bruises appear on his arms, legs, back and head. We didn’t think much of them at first because every one of them were explainable. The key difference though, was that these bruises didn’t seem to be going away.
On Saturday June 25, 2011, my family went to see our town’s fireworks with my brother and sister-in-law and Parker’s bruises came up in conversation. So as the fireworks started, Erica began to Google “easy bruising in children” and many of the websites pointed to Leukemia. While she searched one website I looked at another… reading and learning more and more about the symptoms of what we hoped he didn’t have.
That Tuesday night we waited for the call from his doctor to give us the test results from an appointment he had that morning. As the call came in, Erica and I took it and went to the back of the house. His doctor said, “I’m sorry but all of the results are pointing to leukemia and I would recommend you take him to the ER immediately.” Stress, shock, crying, and packing quickly followed as we left our two older children with family and headed out the door to begin the next stage of our life.
In a matter of a few days we had learned more about Leukemia than I would have ever desired to know. Parker was diagnosed with a form of Leukemia called Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia or ALL. It is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow which affects the immature blood cells in the body and results in cancerous white blood cells called blasts. The protocol the doctors follow is spread out over 3.5 years and consists of many stages and levels of all different types of chemotherapy.
The journey seems to be ever changing even in only the few months since his diagnosis. He has gone to the operating room over a dozen times because of standard chemotherapy spinal taps and bone marrow draws, but also because of a port gone bad which got horribly infected and had to be removed and replaced. We have gone from having a boy on steroids, because of the infection who would eat every thirty minutes to fighting with him for two hours to simply eat two spoonfuls of mashed potatoes. Over a two week period in September he threw up 20 times which led to him now having acid reflux. However, through all of these hard times, he seems to always come out smiling. Every time I say, “I’m taking a picture”, he turns to give me a huge smile!
Our life has been changed to a life of giving chemo, giving shots, weekly hospital appointments, hospital admissions, pushing Parker to eat and take his meds, cleaning, sanitizing, and isolating our other kids away from Parker when they are sick. We are only a few months into this journey and I can already see how his God-given strength has been an encouragement to many people.”