Six Flags rolls out red carpet for teen cancer patient

ARLINGTON -- For one day, Tanner Walker, who has been in remission since December from multiple myeloma, was able to forget about the rare bone cancer, which nearly took his life before he could graduate from high school.

He also was able to forget about the more than $300,000 in medical bills that will continue to grow this year as he completes his recovery.

Instead, the 17-year-old Kennedale boy thought about how many times he could ride the roller coasters at Six Flags Over Texas on Saturday.

Walker was given the red-carpet treatment during opening day at the park.

He was greeted by Looney Tunes characters Bugs Bunny, Tweety Bird and Porky Pig.

Walker even got a chance to bust a move with the park's mascot, Mr. Six, a dancing old man clad in a black suit and red tie.

"It's great that they would go out of their way to make sure I have fun," Walker said. "All of the attention is different, but I'm going to have fun."

Walker has been undergoing treatment for the cancer, which causes abnormal plasma cells in bone marrow to multiply and overwhelm the production of healthy blood cells, since last year. The disease can cause bones to break easily.

Walker wears a cast on his broken foot. He had to navigate through the park in a wheelchair.

Angela Walker, Tanner's mother, got emotional Saturday as her son, whom doctors told he had two years to live, enjoyed the celebration.

"You don't take these times for granted," said the single mother. "He had a rough year."

Six Flags officials learned of Walker's diagnosis after reading a Star-Telegram article about how he and his mother had been victims of a Christmas burglary, said Sharon Parker, public relations manager for the Arlington theme park.

The same day that doctors told Walker that his cancer was in remission, he and his mother received a phone call that the family's home had been ransacked while they were in Arkansas receiving treatment.

Walker said he lost belongings worth thousands of dollars, including a video camera, DVDs and flat-screen TV.

"We can't replace material possessions," Parker said. "But hopefully we can provide a little enjoyment while he's in remission."

During the next year, Walker will continue to receive treatments at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock.

"It gets a little difficult at times, but to know that he'll be able to live a normal life is worth every little bit of it," Angela Walker said. "He'll be around for a long time."

NATHANIEL JONES, 817-390-7742