Family of 7-year-old with brain cancer struggling to make ends meet
When Jaron Youngâ€™s hand was cut after falling from a tree in the summer of 2010, his family took him to the emergency room.
While Jaronâ€™s hand was being fixed, something strange happened.
â€śAll the sudden, his eye went into the corner, and it was like he was looking at you, but the eye was sitting in that corner,â€ť said Jaronâ€™s mother, Tina Smith, 33.
Over the next year or so, Jaron and his family went back and forth between doctors before a final diagnosis was made.
Jaron has a primitive neuroectodermal tumor, or PNET for short.
â€śHe had two tumors in his brain,â€ť said Dr. John Whittle, a pediatric hematologist-oncologist at the Childrenâ€™s Hospital at Memorial University Medical Center. â€śOne was removable and the other was not removable. It was in a location where the anatomy did not permit the neurosurgeon to go in and remove the tumor, because the location in the brain would have caused more damage to Jaron.â€ť
The cancer is in stage 4. It appears to have spread from one location to another within the brain, and there is some evidence that it may have spread to the spinal cord, Whittle said.
â€śHis condition is serious in that itâ€™s a brain tumor, but itâ€™s rendered even more serious by being a PNET, which is a pretty aggressive tumor type ... what makes it even worse is we couldnâ€™t remove it all,â€ť Whittle said.
Whittle said treatment for such brain tumors is more successful when the entire tumor can be surgically removed. Jaronâ€™s treatment consists of radiation-sensitizing chemotherapy, in which the chemotherapy isnâ€™t necessary to kill the tumor, Whittle said, but to make it more susceptible to the radiation.
Jaron has one more month of radiation-sensitizing chemotherapy, some maintenance chemotherapy, and then he will undergo magnetic resonance imaging every three months to monitor the tumor, his mother and Whittle said.
â€śThe trouble is since we couldnâ€™t remove all the tumors, thereâ€™s still a piece of tumor thatâ€™s in his brain,â€ť Whittle said. â€ś... Itâ€™s getting smaller each time, but I donâ€™t know if itâ€™s dead, whether itâ€™s alive and itâ€™s going to come back. Thatâ€™s a tough one â€” we just donâ€™t know.
â€śJaron is one heck of a fighter. Heâ€™s a pleasant kid.â€ť
Despite being pulled out of Garden City Elementary due to his illness â€” he is schooled from home now â€” the second-grader seems to be coping pretty well.
â€śHeâ€™s in good spirit,â€ť Tina said. â€śHe knows what heâ€™s going through.â€ť
She said a doctor let Jaron know his cancer is in stage 4, and that while medical professionals are doing what they can, his illness could still prove fatal.
â€śHeâ€™s not scared,â€ť Tina said. â€śHe just says heâ€™s tired of being sick. Heâ€™s got those good days and bad days. He knows whatâ€™s going on.â€ť
When heâ€™s up to it, Jaron, now 7, enjoys playing with neighborhood friends and his siblings. Tina said he also likes to play Xbox and board games, which he does while at the hospital for treatment.
Tina said sheâ€™s keeping her fingers crossed and praying.
â€śItâ€™s been a rough journey,â€ť she said. â€śItâ€™s been hard. You know, struggling and trying to get his medical bills straightened out. Iâ€™ve got collections agencies calling me.â€ť
Tina said that while Jaronâ€™s four surgeries were covered by insurance, his treatment is still expensive.
Itâ€™s hard for Jaronâ€™s father, 31-year-old Jaron Young Sr., to get work because of his own medical issues, but heâ€™s always trying to find employment, Tina said.
Because of the amount of time she spends taking care of Jaron, sheâ€™s had to cut down on her hours at Matthews Seafood in Garden City from six days a week to three days. She said her boss is understanding of the situation, and has met Jaron, but without full-time work, itâ€™s hard to make ends meet.
â€śI got a stack of bills,â€ť she said. â€śIâ€™ve got them in a shoebox. I have collections people calling me every day.â€ť
Sheâ€™s trying to get some of those bills â€” ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars â€” lowered through the hospital, she said.
In the meantime, she reached out to the Rev. Carl Gilliard of Savannah Feed the Hungry.
â€śIf people come here to make a donation of non-perishable goods, gift cards, anything for the family, weâ€™ll collect them and get it to them,â€ť Gilliard said.
For now, those who know Jaron are hoping the 7-year-oldâ€™s treatment is successful, and his mother said the family is enjoying the time they have together.
Though itâ€™s not as good as doctors would like, Whittle said there is a reasonable chance of cure.
â€śItâ€™s an honor to take care of someone like Jaron,â€ť he said. â€śHopefully weâ€™ll be able to cure his tumor.â€ť
HOW TO HELP
Monetary donations can be made at any Wells Fargo bank to an account under the name Jaron D. Young Jr.
Donations of non-perishable goods for Jaronâ€™s family can be made at Savannah Feed the Hungry at 4011 Augusta Road in Garden City, and at any Savannah Feed the Hungry event.
-Dash Coleman/Savannah Morning News