The annual Scott Firefighter Stairclimb competition is just a few weeks away now, and firefighters are raising money in advance of the event, which benefits the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. On Saturday morning they also held a special fundraiser for an 8-year-old boy named Max, who was recently diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. That's a type of cancer in which the bone marrow makes too many immature white blood cells called lymphocytes.
"He was your typical 8-year-old boy," said Paul Jones. "He was completely healthy had no issues at all."
All of that changed, however, on December 23,2016.
"My wife called me in hysterics," Paul said.
It was a call that Jones said changed their lives.
"She was like hey, I just got a call from the Oncologist saying our son has cancer, I need you to come home right now," said Paul.
While he rushed home to his family, Jones said his mind was racing.
"You're clinging to whatever hope you can and hope that it isn't cancer and that it's some false alarm and it's just a big scare," he said.
But it wasn't a scare.
"This is a life changing disease," said Paul.
Before his diagnosis, Paul's son Max had his tonsils removed because he had some trouble breathing.
"When they removed his tonsils they found Leukemia in one of his tonsils and that's how we found the disease," said Paul.
So Max began treatment right away, starting with chemotherapy and bone marrow biopsies.
"Looking at your kid struggle and having to face these obstacle is heartbreaking," Paul said. "It stabs me in the heart every time he has to do it."
After this first phase of treatment, doctors ran what's called an MRD test, hoping to find less than 0.01% leukemia in his bone barrow.
"It came back that he had 4.8% percent Leukemia still in his blood," said Paul.
It was significantly higher than they had hoped.
"Which can sometimes have less favorable outcomes, is what they've told us," said Paul.
While Max is entering phase two of treatment, nearly 2,000 firefighters from around the world will be climbing towards a cure. On March 12, they'll climb 69 floors and take more than 1,300 steps in the Columbia Tower in Seattle, Washington, for the annual Scott Firefighter Stairclimb competition.
"It's tough for the guys to throw their gear on," said Paul. "It's heavy and it's hot and you're on a limited air supply as you're trudging up those stairs and it's miserable."
But nothing, Paul says, compares to the pain this disease causes. With a long road ahead, Mighty Max is battling.
"I don't think people realize that this is a reality for people," said Paul. "This changes every aspect of his life."
The quote "Never a victim, always a fighter" has been stitched on to t-shirts and hats in support of Mighty Max.
"He's always fought through it and has smiled and said let's make this happen," Paul said. "I have no doubt that he'll take it like a champ like he has every other time."
Mighty Max t-shirts, hats and sweatshirts are now up for sale until March 3rd. All of the proceeds will go towards Max's medical bills. Click here for the website.
You can also continue to donate to the Boise Fire Department's stairclimb teams through March.