NORMAN, Okla. - There is always a lot of laughter and good-natured ribbing during Uno games at the Incarnato's family table in Norman.
This outdoorsy family that enjoys hiking and kayaking is adjusting to low-key entertainment like table games these days.
"I like to be active and doing things. I couldn't go to concerts and I couldn't go to football games at the start, which is stuff I like to do, so I guess it's just kind of everything was put on hold," explains Nick Incarnato, reflecting on the months since he was diagnosed with leukemia last March.
His symptoms started with a flu-like sickness that wouldn't go away.
"They did a flu test on him and a strep test and they both came back negative, so the doctor did more blood work. We knew right when we saw his face, when he came back, that something was very wrong. That's when it got real," Laura Incarnato, his mom, recalls.
"Nick has a type of condition called acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Since he is older than ten, he's considered a high-risk patient, but so far he's responded to chemotherapy exactly as we hoped he would," Dr. Lincy Thomas, from Jimmy Everest Cancer Center, explains.
That doesn't mean the journey hasn't had very rough patches.
"You watch your child go through terrible things. His lung collapsed and he's had bacterial meningitis," Laura told News 4.
At one low point, neuropathy in Nick's leg caused him to fall down the stairs.
"It was a terrible loud noise. He wasn't hurt, but I lost it and went into my room and let everything out. I remember Nick telling me, 'It's okay, you can cry around me. I can see you cry,'" said Laura.
That was one of the big surprises for this Norman family.
They realized at a time when you typically let your graduating senior go off on their own, they instead have had to draw closer, and that close relationship is a silver lining to this medical battle.
"Now we hang out together and we play games together and we just enjoy the time," says Laura Incarnato.
Dr. Thomas also appreciates Nick's positive attitude.
"Nick has one of the my favorite personalities for a teenager. He's really laid back and never complains. He's a total champ through this process" she says.
Nick is now in the maintenance phase which lasts three years.
Fortunately, the maintenance phase is less grueling, and so he's continually feeling better.
At the Jimmy Everest Clinic, he's become a big brother to other patients who look up to him.
He's anxious to get on with life as an adult, but is grateful his family and medical team at Jimmy Everest have his back during his recovery.
If you'd like to help teens like Nick with their medical battles, consider donating to JECFriends.org
'Kids with Courage' is sponsored by the Jimmy Everest Center.