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Kids with Courage: Two brothers battle same rare form of childhood cancer

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KINGFISHER, Okla. - What are the odds of lightning striking the same place twice?

Shannon Bollenbach and her family knows the chances all too well.

Bollenbach's journey began when her first born son, Kaden, was diagnosed with Malignant Rhabdoid Tumor of the Kidney, an extremely rare form of childhood cancer.

"We only see about 20 to 25 cases in the United States a year with this type of tumor," said Dr. Kacie Sims, pediatric oncologist at the Jimmy Everest Center.

The cancer is also very aggressive and typically strikes children before the age of 2.

After intense treatment, Kaden went into remission but also suffered developmental complications.

When it came time to give Kaden a baby brother or sister, Bollenbach said the family underwent genetic testing.

They wanted to rule out the possibility of passing a cancer gene to another child.

Bollenbach said doctors gave them the green light.

The family welcomed a second son, Jase, into the world, but a mother's happiness was mixed with constant fear.

"I was little paranoid, because of everything that had happened with Kaden, so I watched everything extra close," Bollenbach said.

So, when Bollenbach noticed a tinge of blood in Jase's diaper, she took him to their pediatrician right away.

"They ran every test you could imagine, did some x-rays and, 2 hours later, we were being transported to Children's by ambulance," Bollenbach said.

The family was once again sent to the Jimmy Everest Center.

Jase was diagnosed with the same rare form of cancer as his older brother.

"Jace was diagnosed with malignant rhabdoid tumor of the kidney, and he was also found to have the same tumor in his brain," Sims said.

The cancer itself is rare, but the chances of it occurring in brothers is even more remote.

The boys are one of only four documented sibling cases ever diagnosed in the world.

Sadly, Jase's cancer had also spread.

Specialists at Jimmy Everest started Jase on treatment right away, including chemotherapy, radiation and surgery to remove his tumors.

During Jase's treatment, an unexpected blow.

After four years of being cancer free, Kaden's cancer had come back.

This time, he lost his hard-fought battle against childhood cancer.

In the midst of unimaginable grief, another son was still in the fight for his life.

This time, the outcome was cause for celebration.

Jase had won.

Shortly after saying goodbye to one son, the family got to ring the bell at Jimmy Everest, signifying that Jase was cancer free.

His doctors are optimistic as they have watched him continue to thrive despite his tough battle.

"Jase has been a fabulous patient. He's actually the same age as my son, so I've seen him grow, and his is developing like a normal 2-year-old," Sims said.

Although Jase is cancer free, his mother still worries.

Doctors have told the family a relapse is likely at some point in Jase's life.

"It could be six days from now. It could be six years. It could be sixty years but, at some point, it will come back," Bollenbach said.

So, for now, the family plans to treat each day with Jase as the most precious gifts life has to offer.

To learn more about the Jimmy Everest Center or to donate to the effort to cure cancer in Oklahoma's children, go to JECfriends.org.

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