Parker's progress, one step at a time

PV sophomore turns adversity into inspiration

BETTENDORF, Iowa - The adversity Parker Kress has faced in the last three years is enough for a lifetime.

But his tribulations are turning into something special and inspiring as the Pleasant Valley sophomore returns to life as a normal kid. 

"I just tried to smile. I just tried to make jokes -- positive stuff. I mean, that's the best I can really explain it," says Kress. 

Kress was going to keep smiling and beat cancer, even if he wasn't sure exactly how. 

Doctors found a tumor in Kress' right leg in the fall of 2014. 

The then-13-year-old had a bone cancer known as Ewing's Sarcoma. 

Kress' positive outlook on life immediately challenged by grueling chemotherapy. 

"I've always been like happy and smiling and always laughing. It took it away at first and I was worried that I was gonna become this person that was not happy like I was," says Kress.  

"The hardest part was seeing how sick he was. He lost 27 pounds. Almost all of his muscle mass was gone. When he lost his hair, that was a big visual that this was as serious as it really was," says Kress' mom, Kristin Dunser. 

Kress was cancer free bny the end of 2015, but his journey was far from over.

An infection had developed in his leg during recovery.

Last winter, amputation was deemed the best option. 

"Almost immediately after the amputation, he was a whole new kid. He was happy to be done with that 'bum leg' as we called it," says Dunser. 

Kress' energy level soon returned to normal and, with it, his ambition. 

Only six months after the procedure, he approached PV Sophomore Coach Bret Ahlgren at basketball tryouts in the fall. 

"I already had it in my head that, 'Yeah, Parker, we will take you as the manager.' And he looked at me and was like, 'No coach, I want to play. I want to be a player.' Instantly it was like, okay, this kid, he had that look in his eye of I'm determined, I want to play. I'm not gonna tell a kid like that no, no way," says Brett Ahlgren, Pleasant Valley Sophomore Basketball Coach. 

Equipped with a prosthetic leg, Kress worked his way into shape. 

His dedication was rewarded in early December when his number was called by Coach Ahlgren. 

"He kind of looked at me like, "Wait, me? You want me to go?'" says Ahlgren. 

"I just was shocked and he was like, 'Yeah you, get up there.' I ran up and everyone started freaking out and it was nerve wracking. I was nervous," says Kress. 

"You will never be in a sophomore gym when it's that electric like it was right there and he went and ran out there with confidence and took two shots and the crowd and the atmosphere and the community, that just shows a lot of who he is as a person and the respect he gets," says Ahlgren.  

"Just seeing his confidence, has really been like, alright, if this guy is coming to me with this type of confidence, then that's the type of confidence that I need to bring everyday to the gym." 

Playing in the game was a milestone moment, but it was far from the end of the journey for the student who won't stop smiling.

"I just want to do what makes me happy and what I have fun with. I love basketball, it's always been my favorite sport. I just love playing it and I just hope I can continue to play it and continue what I like to do through high school," says Kress. 

Kress will soon replace his original prosthetic leg with a blade similar to those worn by track and field olympians. He says it should help him run faster and lower the limitations in his future athletic endeavors.


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