Welcome to Team Jack's Leukemia Cup Regatta fundraising page!
Jack is back and ready to help raise funds for a cure. We are again taking part in the Leukemia Cup Regatta and this year Jack is hoping to be on board for the race! Jack has been busy over the last 15 months. He is not only fighting his own battle with cancer, but is also helping several cancer charities including LLS to help those kids who continue to be diagnosed each week. Many of us have family, friends, or aquaintences who are fighting or have fought this battle. Many of us know names of those we have lost. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is on the front lines of this war and is making steady and determined progress toward that day when blood cancers are treatable with targeted therapies, not indiscrimitate and posionous chemo. A day when cancer is no longer a potential death sentence and talk of odds, risks, and long-term effects never come up in a conversation about treatment.
We ask you to please consider helping us reach our goal and helping to move reasarch toward its next milestone. Thank you.
(From the front of Jack's hospital room door)
Many of you know Jack and his story. For those who may not, here is a recap of the last 15 months...
Jack Becker was diagnosed with T-cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma at the age of 7. As anyone would expect, it was devastating news for all who know and love Jack, particularly his parents. Jack is an active boy who gives 100% to everything he does. He loves sports, including baseball, basketball, swimming, and particularly soccer. He loves school and you will often find him building things with Legos or lost in a good book. He's just a regular kid (well, special in my book) that loves life, friends, family, school, sports and finds excitement in every day. All of this came crashing down on March 1st, 2016 when Jack was rushed to the Medical College of Virginia and admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit in acute renal failure.
Jack had been suffering from a strange illness that caused him to be sick every night, night after night, usually around 2 or 3 am. During the daytime, he was often much better. Thinking he had a sinus infection or some other bug, we tried various treatments and had him seen by his pediatrician who prescribed an antibiotic. Things quickly became worse as Jack developed strange arthritis-like symptoms in his hands and feet that made it difficult for him to use his hands or walk without pain. I will never forget taking Jack to an event for Cub Scouts and baseball tryouts (of all things) days before he was in the hospital. He had a lot of difficulty running, catching, and throwing the ball, but didn't want to miss out on the upcoming baseball season and tried his best in front of 16+ coaches and staff on the field. In fact, he was signed up to play baseball and soccer... which went against our '1 sport at a time' rule, but Jack loved them both and we agreed.
On February 26th, three days before Jack was admitted, I took the picture below. Swollen, tired from lack of sleep, and with no appetite he still was his cheerful self. That was on Friday. On Monday morning I left on a business trip to Maryland. I remember sitting on the sofa with Jack that morning and commenting to my wife Stephanie about how swollen his face had become. His joint pain had also become worse. Stephanie took him back to the pediatrician's office where blood was drawn and sent to the lab.
On Tuesday morning, as I met up with coworkers in Maryland to go to a meeting, Stephanie called to tell me that she was on the way to MCV with Jack and I needed to come home immediately. His pediatrician had called with the results of the blood work and told her to go to the ER right away. Jack's system was so out of whack that he was in danger of going into cardiac arrest. We were later told that his kidneys only had a few percent function at that time. As I raced back from Maryland, I fortunately did not know these details and still didn't even consider cancer as a possibility. I was extremely worried and knew Jack was very sick, but cancer? It didn't even cross my mind. It haunts me to this day how close we were to losing Jack that week.
Things escalated rapidly at the hospital with Jack throwing up as he was rolled to the pediatric intensive care unit. He was quickly put on dialysis and fluids in an effort to stabilize him. The picture below was taken that first day after he started dialysis. It would be another couple of days before it was clear what we were up against. Intitially, there was talk about things like bad allergic reactions to ibuprophen or other theories. It just didn't make sense that a normally healthy boy like Jack would be so sick. It's all a blur to me now. Eventually, the doctors began to express conerns about his kidney biopsy and this progressed to phrases like 'cells just don't look right' and 'need confirmation.' I will never forget the walk... Stephanie and I with 3 doctors, down the hall, arond the corner, and to the private family meeting room where they delivered the news. You could see it in everyone's faces and feel it in the air. Your son has cancer. We felt utter shock and helplessness. Easily the sadest and most difficult thing I have done in my life is to walk back into Jack's hospital room, sit down beside him with my wife, and tell him he has cancer. Jack's response was a low and quiet, "ok".
Did he understand? Probably not fully, because what really brought him to tears was when he found out that he would not be playing baseball or soccer and would not be returning to school that year or the next. The trip to Disney that he and his siblings received for Christmas from their grandparents would be cancelled. Junior week (sailing camp) at FBYC would be cancelled. Cub Scouts, cancelled. Our week at the beach would be cancelled. No weekend trips to his grandparents river house (a favorite spot) becasue that was too far away from the hospital. Everything would come to a grinding halt. On top of this, we told him that treatment would last three years, easily forever in the mind of a 7 year old and it would not be easy. There would be a port and many trips to the clinc for chemo that would make him sick. There would be complaints of hair coming out in the shower. Wild weight gain and uncontrolable emotions while on steroids. Tupperware containers full of prescription pills and liquids. Full biohazzard suits in case Stephanie spilled chemo when doing home treatments. And there was a lot of boredom and seclusion while the rest of the world went on with life.
The last 15 months have slipped by and Jack has finished his first year of treatment (yea!) Along the way there were good days and bad. Scary days and good news days. This Spring, Jack progressed into the first of two years of maintenace. Maintenance is basically a period of time where he continues to receive chemo, steroids, and other drugs, but it is more in the form of oral medications at home instead of IV and the intensity of treatment is less than the first year. This means fewer trips to the clinc (one or two trips a month) and a somewhat higher level of immunity and energy. Consequenty, Jack was able to return to school in March and even return to his soccer team in late April.