EDMOND, Okla. (KFOR) – Two-year-old Benjamin Brister winds up and kicks a football straight into his dad’s chest, who doubles over laughing.
Benjamin is learning the simplest rules of football in his Edmond backyard with his dad and brother.
He likes football but loves playing “shark-tag” even more.
He hold his hand over his head like a shark fin, as he chases his family.
Benjamin is adorable, but he is also resilient beyond his years.
“He’s always been a blessing to our family as far as calmness and tranquility,” says his dad, Steven Brister. Last February, doctors at Jimmy Everest Cancer Center found a tumor in Benjamin’s kidney.
The Bristers suddenly had to add the term “Wilm’s tumor” to their vocabulary.
Megan Brister says, “They took out his left kidney. It just takes the wind out of you to hear your kid has cancer, no matter what type it is.”
Benjamin underwent surgery to remove his cancerous kidney, which was followed by chemotherapy.
They thought they were heading into the “all-clear” five months later when a routine abdominal scan sent them reeling again.
“His scans came back not good. It had spread to his liver and his lungs, there were just lots of multiple size tumors all over.”
“Less than ten percent of Wilm’s tumors will relapse,” says Dr. Chinni Pokala at Jimmy Everest Cancer Center.
He is now guiding the Bristers through a treatment that is more aggressive and complicated.
“Our hopes are between high dose chemo, stem cell transplant and then radiation to his lungs and liver, we’re still optimistic he’ll be cured,” says Dr. Pokala.
Megan Brister credits the staff at Jimmy Everest Cancer Center for helping them cope with this difficult detour in treatment.
“They don’t make it scary. It’s all upbeat and happy and let’s just get the job done.”
The Bristers say Benjamin is his own tiny health advocate.
“He can give himself his own medicine, a syringe, he wants to do it himself. He flushes his port. He gets daily shots in his leg that he barely cries about now. he picks the legs and lays down for it.”
The Bristers know they are in uncharted waters, but their path forward is filled with love and hope.
“We just want him to grow big and strong,” says Megan.
If you’d like to help children like Benjamin fight cancer, consider donating to JECFriends.org