Meet the Utes' new star assistant coach: Utah football, hoops programs have embraced 8-year-old with leukemia
The first 28 days of Mac’s treatment were aimed at eliminating cancer in his body. The combination of chemotherapy and steroids left him looking obese. Mac had trouble breathing, his heart was racing, and he was sweating profusely. On top of that, he couldn’t stop eating and was always hungry.
Most concerning, though, was that Mac’s cancer was supposed to be at zero and it wasn’t. His leukemia classification remained “very high.” Was the treatment working? Would there be a relapse?
Intensified treatments followed. Chemotherapy continued on average five times per week. That will likely be the case until August, then about once a month for 3-3½ years.
“The whole treatment process is very unpredictable and produces chaos and that’s really the hard part,” Beth said. “There’s something to be said for living in chaos for a short amount of time. There’s another thing to be living in that level of chaos for an extended period of time and that’s been, I think, the biggest adjustment for us. It really is chaotic.”
Mac’s treatments, she explained, are all blood-count dependent.
“He was born feisty and that has served him well.”
Mac, however, shakes off such talk.
“Getting through this is not easy,” he said. “But I wouldn’t say I’m a total tough guy.”
Good news came a couple weeks ago when a bone marrow test revealed that Mac’s cancer was at zero. He shared the results with both the basketball and football teams.
“They both went crazy,” Mac said. “I didn’t get to finish when I was doing both.”
Krystkowiak noted that the basketball team got really ecstatic and let out a big cheer.
“It was great,” Krystkowiak said. “He’s been a leader for us and a captain.”
Mac’s father has also been greatly impacted.
“He’s strong and he’s got a kind heart. He’s a great kid,” Kyle said. “I’m very proud. He inspires me. You can take yourself too seriously as an adult and you see someone his age taking on what he’s taken on and still having fun and still having a good spirit. ... It really puts things in perspective for me.”
So much so, in fact, that it’s made the situation more bearable.
“It’s hard. It’s horrible. But so many people have been good to us. We have friends that step in. People that we work with have been great,” Kyle said. “People get worse news. So we try and keep it positive. We are still really lucky. Some people get a bad prognosis.”
Mac’s treatments are working, as evidenced by the recent cancer-free bone marrow test. Beth said the results are very encouraging.
Kyle also acknowledged it’s good and said those were great days even though it’s still hard because the treatment doesn’t change.
“As long as we know it’s working we can do whatever is asked,” he added.
In a good place
While Mac is on the road to recovery — he was able to make it back to school for a stretch in late-April — there’s still some hurdles ahead. However, he’s grateful for the help the Utes are offering along the way.
“It makes me forget about it and just feel like I belong, like I belong in that place right now and that’s where I want to be,” Mac said.
Kyle Brennan believes it was meant to be.
“I think all of us are meant to work or have a purpose, even at a young age. Right now, when you’re young like my other sons, their purpose is going to school,” he explained. “They go to school and then they go to their sporting activities. Every day they’re working on something. So the hardest part, I think, was right away that purpose was taken from him.”
Krystkowiak and Whittingham, he continued, helped restore purpose to Mac’s day.
“They’re just good people when no one’s looking and I don’t know if everyone knows that,” Kyle said.
It’s part of an overall groundswell of support the Brennans have received from the community.
“I think we’re overwhelmed by people’s generosity and we’re blessed. I feel that way. Blessed that we have Primary Children’s, blessed that they’ve had so much advancement in leukemia treatment, blessed by the people that have been so kind to us,” Kyle said. “I think we’ve tried to focus in on how can we take what people have done for us and do something good for others and put life in perspective.”
A lot of good things, he added.
“It’s brought us closer as a family. It’s challenging but still those things outweigh the challenge.”
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