800k white blood cell count leads to cancer diagnosis for Yukon 6-year-old

Kids with Courage

YUKON, Okla. (KFOR) – Six-year-old Parker Gregory of Yukon loves poking around his dad’s electrician shop. 

He is a busy boy, climbing on back-hoes, and testing out the office equipment. 

Almost a year and a half ago, Parker couldn’t even get out of bed.

His mother, Ruthie remembers, “he was sleeping way too much. It was scary, about twenty hours a day, and no one could give us an answer on anything.” 

Weeks went by without answers, despite multiple trips to the doctor.

“We saw a new doctor, and she said ‘this isn’t right,'” recalls Ruthie.

Parker was immediately sent to the Jimmy Everest Center for Cancer.

“That day will stick in my mind,” says Dr. Renee McNall Knapp who was part of the medical team that spent the first feverish hours treating Parker on his arrival. 

She remembers that he looked very pale, and listless, but it was what they couldn’t see externally that was the most frightening.

“His white count was exceedingly high. A normal is 10-thousand and his was 800-thousand, and I’ve only seen one higher than that in my career.” 

Parker’s dad, Bill, says when he and his wife heard that news: “We were just nauseous, sick to your stomach, felt like it got really hot in the room.” 

Dr. McNall-Knapp added, “When you have a white cell count that high, they can ‘glom up’ in the system and cause a stroke and can collect in the lungs and make the lungs not work.” 

In fact, Parker was so stoic during that initial treatment that Dr. McNall Knapp was worried those extra white cells were already sludging in his brain.

She was relieved when “he started crying after he realized we were all done and it was safe to cry.” 

The Gregorys held on tight for a couple of weeks in the hospital.

A second blow came when Bill learned he’d been fired from his electrician job due to his absence tending to his son.

“We found ourselves without a job and no health insurance right after he got out of the hospital. We talked about it and thought we’d start our own little company.”

Rising from the ashes, the Gregorys began a new electrical company.

It’s now a thriving business and one that allows this family to put Parker’s health first.

They try to come to clinic appointments together.

Ruthie Gregory says the staff here have been amazing.

“The first time they knew who he was– they knew his name– it makes you feel welcome,” said Ruthie.

Dr. McNall-Knapp adds, “Parker is a rock star. He’s so stoic and strong, and so strong-willed.”

Thanks to a new medication, Parker’s long-term survival rate has jumped to well over 90-percent says his doctor.

Parker is in maintenance therapy now, and he’s had to give up riding his four-wheeler for now.

He got a scrape during one outing that turned into a dangerous infection, so they’re avoiding outdoor activities until his chemotherapy treatments are over.

Parker now enjoys time in the family workshop. 

Bill laughs, “He really doesn’t let anything stop him.” 

If you’d like to help kids like Parker fight cancer, consider donating to JECFriends.org

This story originally aired on Feb. 11.

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