YUKON, Okla. (KFOR) – It was a high-pressure moment for 8-year-old Parker Henderson.
The Yukon girl had the honor of throwing out the first pitch for the College World Series, and she was both nervous and excited.
Thinking back on that moment, Parker’s mother, Kate tells a reporter, “Well, I’m a crier. So, if I start crying my husband will take over (the interview).”
Kate says that first-pitch moment for her daughter was also a mountain-top moment for their entire family. It was a clear victory after the scare of their lives months before.
Kate recalls “I woke Parker up to go to a softball game and her face was swollen. I was like, ‘that’s weird.'”
It was soon clear that this wasn’t the tonsillitis Parker’s family doctors first suspected.
Parker’s dad, Chase Henderson remembers, “I felt (something) like a walnut under her chin.”
Kate nods and adds, “I didn’t allow myself to google Web MD.”
She gestures to her husband, “He went on Web MD.”
Their search for answers quickly led to OU Children’s Hospital, and then Jimmy Everest Cancer Center.
The diagnosis was acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
“I thought, ‘oh no, please don’t let her die.’ That’s all I could think,” says Kate, wiping tears as she recalled that moment of diagnosis.
Within hours, the Hendersons were plunged into the world of childhood cancer as doctors launched a treatment plan.
“This [intravenous] pole where they hang all the medicines, we call him Steve. So Steve was with us from the ER all the way through that whole week,” says Kate with a chuckle. “We went home with a PICC line (peripherally inserted central catheter) and she named her PICC line ‘Gucci’ because it was her accessory.”
Parker is on a two-and-a-half year journey.
Chemotherapy infusions eventually thinned her hair, so she grabbed the scissors herself. Parker remembers that moment saying
“It was fun but then I missed my hair a few days later,” recalled Parker. “It feels nice in the summer.”
Every step of the way, the Hendersons felt the support of their medical team at Jimmy Everest Cancer Center.
“Everyone there from the front desk to the last person you leave at JEC is amazing,” said Kate. “So, any questions we’ve had they’ve been right there.”
Parker adds how much she loved the therapy dogs: “My favorite therapy dog is Targa, and she’s a cool dog.”
Parker is now ready to get back to the things she loves including the ball diamond, her friends, and her school. She has had some tough pitches thrown her way, but her family and her faith and her medical team are providing joyful inspiration.
Kate sums it up this way, “You (Parker) were given this mountain to show others it can be moved, and she’s moving it everyday.”
Parker is eight months into her treatment, and now instead of chemotherapy infusions, she’s taking a weekly pill.
If you’d like to help children like Parker fight cancer, consider donating to JECFriends.org.