YUKON, Okla. -There is a lot of love at the Mallory home in Yukon, Oklahoma.
Keely and Joe Mallory are parents of 3-year-old Rhett. They knew life would have challenges because Rhett was diagnosed with Down syndrome.
He was growing and meeting all the appropriate milestones when Rhett hit a rough patch in the spring of 2018.
His mother remembers how he had one virus and sore throat after another.
"What am I not disinfecting? What have I not thrown away, why am I such a disappointment? Why can't I clean this house?" she says with a laugh.
The mystery deepened with his test results.
"The hospitalist came in and said, 'Is he bleeding anywhere? His platelets are really low,'" Keely Mallory said.
More testing gave the Mallorys that sinking feeling. They knew kids with Down syndrome are at higher risk of leukemia.
The next stop was Jimmy Everest Cancer Center and a cancer confirmation that was delivered with hope.
Keely recalls, "They said, 'Do you have any questions?' We said, 'How much time do you have?' Then we said, 'Is my kid going to be OK?' He said, 'All signs point to yes.'"
Physician Dr. Lincy Thomas explains, "Kids with Down syndrome are more sensitive to chemotherapy and are more likely to have side effects from it."
Dr. Thomas says Rhett's treatment is tailored to be less intensive but still effective.
His parents know all the tricks to keep him calm during treatments; singing songs, playing games and blowing bubbles.
Dr. Thomas comments, "He's so active and has so much energy. I love it!"
His dad laughs, "He's a trouble maker. He gets into anything and everything he can at the house."
Keely says, "I never really had that moment where I didn't think we're not going to make it. You have to have your mind right. So my thought process from the beginning was let's get our head down and let's get to work."
Fortunately, Rhett has handled treatment without significant side effects. He still has a couple years of maintenance chemotherapy ahead of him.
Rhett will likely never remember his bout with cancer, but his parents won't forget the anchor they found in their medical team at Jimmy Everest Cancer Center.
It's allowed them to plan for fun times ahead.
"We look forward to family vacations," says Keel. "Being able to go to the lake and fish, and go to the zoo and do all those things you plan with a kiddo. The fun things."
Rhett smiles at his mom. He is surrounded by love.
If you'd like to help children like Rhett fight cancer, consider donating to JECFriends.org.
'Kids with Courage' is sponsored by the Jimmy Everest Center.