Raymond Parra is pretty much your typical 13-year old boy – a never-slowing frenzy of shaggy hair, a sneaky-sweet golf swing, crazy skateboard skills and spills, and a budding interest in girls.
That Parra can be described as typical is truly a gift that has been almost seven years in the making and one that came as a result of the care given by Children’s Hospital Central California.
Parra was chosen as this year’s national boy representative at the Children’s Miracle Network Classic, a Professional Golf Association fundraiser which was held in Orlando, Florida in November.
On August 15, 2003, a then 5-year-old Parra was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). The diagnosis came just days after Parra had competed in one of his many California junior golf tournaments and only hours after a family camping trip was cut short due to his 105-degree temperature.
“The camping trip happened so fast, but he had signs that we didn’t put together until after,” Cindy Parra says. “He was in treatment right away and the doctors at Children’s Hospital of Central California were able to put it into remission within nine days. We were very lucky. His body really absorbed the chemo and did exactly what it was suppose to.
“We had no idea what leukemia was. We thought we were going to lose our son. Automatically. When you hear cancer leukemia, you don’t know. You automatically think those thoughts. When we got to Children’s, we were educated. We were given hope, really. A 95 percent chance of survival. I would take that to Vegas.”
Golf remained a focal point for Parra during his chemotherapy treatments.
“Really, golf was therapy, Cindy Parra says. “He would literally beg his doctors to go play after chemo. He would get chemo in his spine, chemo through his IV, chemo by mouth… and he would still beg them to let him go play. They told him if he felt good, he would go. He might not have gotten all the way through a round right away, but it was therapy. It took his mind off the chemo and biopsies and treatment and hospital stuff.
Now, the Kerman, California, teenager has been declared cancer-free. But the Children’s Miracle Network is never far from his actions- as he plays in an annual tournament near his home to raise money for cancer research. He also recently discovered he could play with one hand in a cast, having taken a tumble off his skateboard and broken his right hand.
“He is a totally normal kid now,” Cindy Parra says. “He has his pink break cancer pin all set to go for Florida, because he is thinking about girls now as much as he is leukemia. Go figure, huh?”