Teen gets aggressive cancer diagnosis while working towards college degree

Kids with Courage
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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Now-20-year-old Gregory Burris of Drumright loves being outside and feeling the tug of a fish on his line.  

His mother Judy recalls, “Gregory was nothing but the picture of health growing up. He played football, basketball, baseball, soccer, and track. He did it all.”

But a sudden, unexplained exhaustion began to haunt Gregory while he was working to be an electrical engineer at OSU Technical school for his sophomore year.

“I started noticing my skin color, that I was getting pale and I had bad acid reflux. I threw up at random times, I had no appetite. I’d sweat in my sleep and had sleep paralysis,” Gregory said.

When his mom finally forced him to see a doctor, they immediately called an ambulance.

“His blood counts were so low they couldn’t even transport him until they gave him a blood and platelet transfusion,” Judy Burris recalled.

“He is one of the strongest 19-year-old’s I know,” says Jimmy Everest Center oncologist Dr. Rinkin Shaw. “He was very sick, but he always had great manners and an amazing attitude.”

Dr. Shaw says Gregory was diagnosed with an aggressive pediatric form of leukemia. The stem cell transplant he needed came with life-threatening complications.

Dr. Shaw explains, “It is a complication where your liver gets congested due to the chemo you’ve received in the past and that makes the body go into multi-organ failure.”

That news was shocking to Gregory’s mother.

“It turned out it was a parent’s worst fear, every parent’s worst fear.” 

She says Gregory’s medical team was there, reassuring them every step of the way.

“I do think God led us to Childrens, and I’m very thankful for that,” says Judy Burris. 

Gregory nods, “I feel much better than I did. The treatment worked. It’s tough but it worked.”

With a new and rebooted immune system, Gregory no longer needs chemotherapy, but takes medications to help his body accept the new donor stem cells.  He’s strong enough to get back to things he loves. 

“I’m ready to get back to college. Ready to get it done,” he says.  

Thanks to his medical team at Jimmy Everest Cancer Center, he’s putting childhood cancer in his rear-view mirror.

Kids with Courage is sponsored by The Jimmy Everest Cancer Center, consider donating to JECFriends.org.

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