DALLAS— A Dallas firefighter’s son is supposed to be enjoying his summer before he starts kindergarten, but now he and family are gearing up for a long battle with a rare form of cancer.

Last week, the son of Capt. Jim McDade was diagnosed with Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma that impacts 1 out of 1 million people.

McDade, who is also the president of the Dallas Fire Fighter’s Association, has been a veteran with the department for 13 years. He took his son Coen, 5, to see two doctors after noticing a strange bump on the boy’s hand.

“Both doctors we originally saw were confident that it was just a cyst that needed to be drained,” McDade said.

But when Coen went in to get the cyst removed, doctors noticed that it wasn’t a cyst at all—and was instead a malignant tumor. “Absolutely surprising to us all,” McDade said. “It was the last thing that we were expecting to hear.”

The tumor was removed, but the damage had been done. “I couldn’t even pronounce it a week ago, now we know everything about it,” McDade said. “Once you get the news, it’s like ok what do we do now,” he said.

Coen with his mom, Jenna McDade. Photo: Courtesy
Coen with his mom, Jenna McDade. Photo: Courtesy

Doctors told McDade that Coen's cancer has already spread to his bone marrow and that he must undergo 54 weeks of chemotherapy.

Just imagine that. A few weeks ago, everything was fine. McDade said that doctors didn’t even catch the bump when Coen received a physical months ago.

“We’re going to have to be a little more aggressive in our treatment to take care of it,” McDade said. “He’s supposed to be starting kindergarten in August, but all that stuff has been put on hold now.”

The good news? Coen is getting nothing but love. Dallas firefighters have been visiting him almost daily at Medical City Children’s Hospital. McDade shared Coen’s story on his Facebook page and said he’s been receiving nothing but positive support.

“We’ve been added to prayer groups across the country, and it’s amazing,” he said. “Knowing that we have so many people out there, who don’t even know Coen, keeping him in their thoughts as he gets ready to fight this thing is amazing.”

Coen tackled his first chemo treatment Monday afternoon. His battle will be long, but McDade said that he’s glad it’s starting sooner rather than later.

Adding that Coen's story should remind all parents to be mindful of their child’s health, and to always be asking questions.

“If you see something out of the ordinary, get it checked out,” he said.

If you’d like to follow Coen’s battle, McDade will be journaling from time-to-time.