Parker Kress is a bright, funny, sarcastic teenager that always has a smile on his face. He enjoys school and is in 9th grade. History is his favorite subject. Parker loves watching and playing all sports and was very active. His favorite teams are the Iowa Hawkeyes, Green Bay Packers, Milwaukee Bucks, Chicago Blackhawks, USMNT, and The Arsenal FC. You could usually find him riding bikes with his friends around the neighborhood, playing basketball in our driveway or practicing soccer and throwing a football around in our back yard. He was looking forward to joining wrestling, basketball, and soccer with the hopes of being a goalie, but was unable to due to what we thought was an ankle injury.
In late October of 2014, Parker started limping and complained of pain in his ankle and swelling in his calf muscle. We went to the hospital where they did x-rays, gave him pain killers, and ran blood work including testing for arthritis, diabetes, etc. We were sent home to have an MRI of his ankle done at a later date. After the MRI, we followed up with his pediatrician. We were told there was nothing concerning about the MRI and the swelling in his calf muscle was probably a result of injuring his ankle. We were instructed to put a support on Parker’s ankle. As time passed, he stopped limping and the problem seemed to go away. On Saturday, December 6th, 2014 I took Parker to the emergency room because his calf had become more swollen, and I was worried about a blood clot. They did an x-ray which didn’t show anything concerning, and they didn’t think it was a blood clot. They decided to do an ultrasound which showed a mass in his calf. The next step was an MRI. Once they got the MRI results back, they told us they suspected it was a sarcoma, and they were sending us to Iowa City. We drove to Iowa City and Parker was admitted for further testing. On Sunday he had a CT Scan. By Monday he was having surgery to do tissue and bone marrow biopsies and getting a port placement. The diagnosis was Ewing’s Sarcoma. Luckily the scans showed that the cancer had not spread.
Parker started chemotherapy on December 16th, 2014. He received 6 different chemotherapy drugs - Vincristine, Docorubicin, Ifosfamide, Etoposide, Cyclophosphamide, and Topotecan. He had many 5 day long stays in the hospital with this regimen.
On April 3rd, 2015 he had surgery to remove what was left of the tumor, which he called Leonardo. This surgery consisted of replacing a large part of his tibia with a cadaver bone. Due to a blood clot during surgery, the vascular team was called in and they had to sacrifice a vein. This caused poor blood flow to a portion of his surgical site and on May 5th, he had a skin graft. On September 14th, Parker got the okay to start putting weight on his leg. He had 7 casts and walked with crutches for many months. He had many physical therapy session to gain strength and balance.
Parker finished chemotherapy on December 4th, 2015. It was a very long and difficult road, and unfortunately, the hospital stays didn't end there.
In fact, it's been a roller coaster ever since.
Over the summer of 2016, Parker developed an infection in his leg. In June, he had surgery to clean out the infection and a picc line placed so he would be able to receive IV antibiotics at home for 6 weeks. During this stay, he also had routine scans which showed a spot on his lung and another surgery was scheduled in July.
We received great news regarding the spot on his lung - it was NOT cancer! The infection in his leg, however, was still there.
Parker's surgeon gave him a choice between an above the knee amputation or another type of amputation called Rotationplasty. Parker chose Rotationplasty, and surgery was scheduled for October 25th, 2016.
As surgery approached, Parker had another set of routine scans in September. Two more spots were discovered on Parker's lungs. The plan was to would move forward with the Rotationplasty and then address the lungs.
Then we received the surprise of a lifetime. Parker's leg was no longer infected! The infection was gone! Surgery was cancelled and Parker was able to keep his leg!
We were still very worried about the spots that were found on his lungs though. Before scheduling a surgery to remove the spots, we repeated the scans to see if there were any changes. Again, to our surprise, the spots were GONE! Scans were clear!
But the roller coaster didn't stop there.
In February, Parker again had pain in his knee. We found out the infection was back and Parker had a through-knee amputation on March 28th, 2017.
He doesn't let the amputation stop him though! He tried out for and made his sophomore high school basketball team!
He continues to have follow up scans to be sure he remains cancer free.
You can stay up to date on Parker's progress by going to his Facebook page, Power for Parker. www.facebook.com/PowerForParker
Parker remains positive, and his attitude through all of this is amazing. He's our hero!
The future remains bright for Parker. We know Ewing's is an aggressive cancer and many kids relapse, but we remain optimistic and full of HOPE.
Parker and his family hope to be a voice for childhood cancer. We hope to raise awareness and money for childhood cancer research.
We will do this in the memory of Tori Vogel and all the other kids that are unable to be a voice. Tori was 14 when she passed away on May 29th, 2015. Tori and Parker met in the hospital and got to know each other at his benefit just the month before she passed. She was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma and considered cancer free. Tori was near the end of her treatment for Ewing's when she and her family received the devastating news that she had a secondary cancer, AML. Within days, she was no longer with us. I watched my son hobble on crutches next to her casket as an honorary pallbearer as her parents and 4 younger siblings followed behind with tears streaming down their faces. It forever changed me, and I'll never forget that moment or Tori.
Because of Tori's love for art, her family created Tori's Art of Hope in her memory. They deliver art boxes full of goodies to the kids at the hospital. We will continue to help Tori's family with Tori's Art of Hope and hope to do more in the future!