EDMOND, Okla. - "Oh my doggies!" said 8-year-old Carson Dimsdale as they jump into his lap in his Edmond backyard.
Something as simple as giving his pets a big hug is a luxury for Carson. The articulate boy loves his pets and also creating elaborate toys.
Carson enjoys being home because, for the past year, he's lived most of the time in a patient room at OU Children's Hospital.
Last December, his parents, Kori and Will, thought he had strep throat and were stunned by tests that revealed he had Acute Myeloid Leukemia instead. The rapidly dividing cells had almost overtaken his body, even though he didn't feel that sick.
"He had 85 percent leukemia in his body," said mom Kori Dimsdale. "By the time he went up to the 10th floor where cancer patients are cared for, he asked why he was there with sick kids."
Feeling fine didn't last long, however. The first round of chemotherapy at Jimmy Everest Center for Cancer barely budged his leukemia numbers but made him violently ill.
"We had no idea that he wouldn't be in remission after the first round. Ninety percent of kids are, and he didn't just fail it, he miserably failed it," Kori said.
Doctors turned to an experimental drug administered in Tennessee, which was almost a "hail Mary" attempt to beat back the leukemia. It surprised everyone by working much better than expected. Hope started building until a perfect-match for a bone marrow transplant backed out of going through with the procedure.
Dr. David Crawford explained why the transplant to reboot Carson's immune system is critical:
"You can imagine, if there is even one leukemia cell retained in a patient's body and it has the ability to divide, the leukemia will eventually come back," Crawford said.
Crawford said finding a second willing donor who would also be a perfect match was tricky but it happened just in time before any remaining leukemia cells in Carson's body could begin their process of multiplication again. Once again, Carson's experience was not typical.
"Transplant is the biggest, toughest round to go through, and he breezed through," Carson's parents said.
After months and months in the hospital, Carson and his family finally got the green light to go home.
"My cancer went down to zero!" Carson said.
"I think he's a really brilliant child to be honest with you," Crawford. said "He's extremely smart, mature way beyond his years but a real job absolutely, we love taking care of him."
"Carson feels like he can see into their souls - all the doctors and nurses that come in, he says 'I can see your soul and see who you are.' And, I would say 'What is Dr. Crawford's soul?' And, he says 'He's all good," his parents said.
It's safe to say, Carson's mind did not face any of the struggles his body did. He's back in school, and he likely won't just meet his teacher's expectation. He'll exceed them.
If you'd like to help kids like Carson beat cancer, consider making a donation to JECKids.org.
'Kids With Courage' is sponsored by the Jimmy Everest Center.