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Horses help 2-year-old boy cope with cancer

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP)--Marcus Terry's parents said they're thrilled their son lived to celebrate his third birthday after being diagnosed with leukemia as a 2-year-old in September 2008.

Though he still faces a nearly 3 1/2-year process of chemotherapy and other treatments to battle his disease, the toddling Marcus seemed more concerned with farm animals than his illness recently.

"There's no horses,'' he said, looking at nearly a dozen bleating goats in an animal pen.

"He wants to ride his therapy horses,'' Laura Terry said of her son, who recently started equestrian therapy as a way to maintain his strength after chemotherapy.

But the mother said she thought her son was having a good time petting farm animals and playing carnival-style games during the American Cancer Society's Cattle Baron's Ball Children's Round-up at Kenny's Korral.

"It's something for Marcus to do with his buddies that he knows from the cancer center instead of getting chemotherapy and all of that,'' she said.

More than 100 children and their families who have undergone pediatric cancer treatment through the Covenant Health System and University Medical Center Health System spent the day on hay rides, playing games and petting and feeding llamas, camels and farm animals.

"I like to see the kids having fun. Normally I see them in the hospital,'' said Stephanie Thompson, a child life specialist at Covenant Medical Center and Children's Round-up committee chairwoman.

Thompson said her organization hosts the annual party to offer children a distraction from the pain and stress they experience from illness and treatment.

"It's also really to honor them for the treatment they've gone through and to be brave through the treatment they're going to go through,'' she said.

Nine-year-old Quintin Contreras of Lamesa went to the Children's Round-up with his family as a seven-year cancer survivor.

His mother, Gloria, said he was diagnosed with medulla blastoma only months before his second birthday. Doctors soon removed a tumor from the back of his head.

Since then, she said, her son goes to Covenant Medical Center once a year for an MRI.

Being inside a big machine for 20 minutes was scary at first for the young boy, his mother said.

But he's become braver.

Though shy and nearly silent, Quintin said he was not afraid to see the seemingly strange farm animals, and enjoyed feeding them.

"It's just a fun thing for him,'' his mother said. "He doesn't normally see animals like this.''

For Roger Terry, Saturday's Round-up was just another chance for his son, Marcus, to spend time with the friends the family has made at the UMC Cancer Center.

"Every time we go into the cancer center we see the same people, and they're going through the same things we are,'' Roger said.

Marcus' mother said she was appreciative of her son's cancer treatment and the chance it's given him to enjoy afternoon outings in the country.

"He acts like he's a normal little boy, and that wouldn't be possible without the wonderful treatment he's gotten,'' she said.

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