Flu-like symptoms lead to whirlwind diagnosis for Oklahoma boy

OKLAHOMA CITY - Piecing together a medical mystery is something doctors and nurses do every day at Jimmy Everest Center for Cancer, and it was a complicated road to get to one 8-year-old's diagnosis.

It all started last June when Gunner came down with flu-like symptoms that simply wouldn't go away. His parents had no idea those common symptoms would quickly turn into a medical whirlwind.

"That Tuesday he was admitted, Wednesday he had a CT, Thursday he had biopsy and port placement, Friday he was diagnosed, and Saturday he started chemo," said Christina Holden, Gunner's mother.

Ultimately, Gunner was diagnosed with a kidney cancer, Wilms' tumor, but it had spread.

"The prognosis of the Wilms' tumor depends on the stage of the Wilms' tumor," said Dr. Chibuzo Ilonze, a pediatric oncologist at Jimmy Everest Center for Cancer.

Dr. Ilonze says Gunner's tumor was stage four and about the size of a Chick-fil-A nugget box. It spread in his abdomen and was even blocking a large vein that carries blood back to the heart.

"They ended up removing the whole tumor, the kidney, the adrenal glands, the renal artery and lymph nodes,"Holden said.

After a 14-hour surgery, Gunner was up and walking in three days.

"He's made it this far, it's all downhill from here," Holden said.

"This is one of the amazing things about our patients, they're very resilient," said Dr. Ilonze.

Gunner has more chemo and radiation ahead of him, but the doctors and nurses are doing their best to keep the sharks away.

"I love my job and will keep doing what I can to help kids with cancer," said Dr. Ilonze.

Despite the spread of the tumor, Gunner's other kidney was spared.

If you'd like to help kids like Gunner fight cancer, consider donating to JECFriends.org.

Kids with Courage is sponsored by the Jimmy Everest Center.