July 21, 2018
Kingston Baker played with Legos on Thursday afternoon.
“I’m building a bank,” said Baker, age 7.
Fun, yeah buddy, he was having fun.
“I do until I start feeling bad,” he said. “I’m feeling good.”
Diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in February, Kingston’s life and that of his family spun chaotically in the immediate aftermath. Funds stretched, time frazzled, nerves frayed. So a number of benefits to ease the turmoil followed. Next up, Carson Peters and Iron Mountain chime in with a benefit on Saturday, July 28 at the Paramount Center for the Arts in Bristol, Tennessee.
“So cool. We are so excited about the show,” said Katelyn Baker, Kingston’s mother. “The Paramount, Carson Peters, oh my gosh, that’s so cool.”
Despite being on a family vacation, Peters called on Thursday afternoon. Though he’s never met Kingston, he wants to help.
“It’s really cool to be able to use my talent to help out other people, especially a kid,” said Peters. “We’ve done benefits ever since I can remember. Tell him we’re glad to help out and that I hope he gets better real soon.”
If thanks were rocks, Kingston’s mother’s appreciation could build a mountain.
“Carson Peters,” Baker, 32, said, “is so sweet.”
Add the Paramount, its staff, and volunteers to that roll call. They are donating their time to work the show.
“The Paramount is here to serve the community,” said Miles Marek, executive director of the Paramount.
Tickets for the show require but a $10 suggested donation. However, Marek stressed, feel free and please do donate more if possible. All proceeds will benefit Kingston Baker.
“It’s going to be stellar. Carson Peters and Iron Mountain are first-rate performers, first-rate people,” Marek said. “I want people to know that they are going to get a hell of a lot more than $10 worth of entertainment. We hope people pack the place.”
Meanwhile high hopes, fingers crossed, and prayers encircle the lives of the Baker family and friends. It’s been that way since fateful February.
“He had been sick off and on for two weeks,” Baker said by phone from Memphis.
Several medical visits later, a local doctor performed blood work on Kingston.
“He said his blood levels were critically low,” Baker said. “He said to get him to Niswonger Children’s Hospital in Johnson City immediately. I called my husband and said ‘it’s bad.’”
By the third day, Kingston Baker and his mother were at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.
“My husband and I packed for two weeks,” Baker said. “St. Jude said he had AML leukemia, which is a more rare form of leukemia that requires us to be here for six to eight months.”
The vibrant hallways of St. Jude line with Nintendo video consoles for kids to play with and vivid murals to catch their eye. Each patient’s room comes with an Xbox console.
“If the kids want anything – anything, they get it for the kid,” Baker said. “A happy cart comes around every day. They get to pick a new toy every single day.”
Yet ensnared by leukemia’s tentacles, aggressive treatment greeted Kingston’s arrival at the all-expenses-paid hospital. Chemotherapy treatments began, his hair fell out, and the fight was on.
“My mom always said that you can get through anything that’s temporary,” Baker said.
Positivity flourished as war was waged. Kingston went into remission after the first round of chemotherapy.
“Amazing!” she said. “We found out on March 30, Good Friday, that he was cancer-free. That was a good, good, good day.”
However, more intensive challenges and treatment came soon thereafter.
Kingston needed a bone marrow transplant.
“The night before the transplant, they did an extreme round of chemo that took all of Kingston’s bone marrow,” his mother said. “He was very, very sick.”
Despite the ravaging onslaught, he persevered. Like a marathon runner whose sights aim for the eventual finish line, Kingston championed onward.
“He received his bone marrow transplant on his birthday, which was on June 15,” Baker said. “Right now, we are on day 33 after the transplant.”
Kingston was released from the hospital on Monday. He’s now with his mother in Memphis at an on-site apartment provided by St. Jude.
“They require us to stay through day 120,” she said. “We’re thinking that he may be able to go home to Bristol in the middle of October.”
Meantime, he endures enormous amounts of medication. His health, guarded as if he were all the gold in Fort Knox, remains of the utmost concern and attention among his doctors and nurses.
Despite all of that…
“I’m happy,” Kingston said.
To Carson Peters and everyone back home who pray for him, hope for him, established benefits for him…
“I would say thank you,” Kingston said.
Now, that would make any daddy proud and every mama smile.
“We came here, conquered,” Baker said. “Peace. We’re going home.”
Until then and thereafter, avalanches of positive vibes inhabit the Baker family. They are resolute. No way, no how will cancer defeat their son.
That’s because Kingston can.
“Cancer,” Baker said, “you picked the wrong kid.”