Treatment and Relief

“Your son has a brain tumor.”

These are words a parent never wants to hear. It is difficult to imagine the impact such news would have on your life. The tumor would become the center of your universe, all life orbiting around it. The fears, tears, endless questions and doctor appointments; the medical bills beyond anything you know how to pay, even with the best of insurance. The sleepless nights, cafeteria dinners and constantly not knowing what will happen. In 2014, this nightmare became reality for one Treasure Valley family.

Jack B. was 7 when his mom, Tiffany, got his results. Jack had experienced loss of vision due to a large brain tumor. He immediately began chemotherapy. Treatments continued for a year and a half, but Jack’s tumor remained. In 2016, when he was nearing his final treatment, Jack’s parents asked his doctor what they should do next. His recommendation for a surgery which he’d previously advised against due to risks involved filled Tiffany with anxiety. The doctor also said that after the surgery, Jack would need proton radiation. The nearest center that provides this type of treatment is located in Oklahoma. Jack’s insurance would not cover the radiation. In addition, there would be the expenses of travel, housing and food. Without knowing how to pay for any of these things, the family began to make plans for the two of them to go to Oklahoma.

“When you’re a parent, you find a way,” Tiffany says.

Anxious about whether or not Jack should go through the risky brain surgery, Tiffany reached out to a support group on Facebook where someone suggested Tiffany apply to St. Jude.

Two weeks after being accepted to St. Jude, Jack was already there for testing. The doctors at St. Jude performed the operation, during which Jack had a minor stroke. He was given two weeks to recover before beginning proton radiation. For Tiffany and Jack, being at St. Jude made such a difference. The campus has everything all in one place. The doctors suspected Jack would have a seizure during his radiation treatment one day, and they were able to get him in for testing the same day on-site.

“It’s very reassuring when you’re going through all this to have everything right there,” Tiffany says.

She describes Tri Delta House, the housing at St. Jude, as feeling like home.

“The whole staff treats you like you’re family.” 

Jack developed special relationships with many people, including his radiation oncologist, his nurse and his surgeon. Upon learning that Jack was interested in animals, one staff member whose wife worked at the city zoo went so far as to arrange a behind-the-scenes tour just for Jack.

St. Jude is the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center devoted solely to children. Treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to 80 percent since the hospital opened more than 50 years ago. They go out of their way to make everything as easy as possible for patients and their families. They not only cover the cost of treatment, but they also pay for travel to and from their facility, housing during the patient’s stay and meals for the patient and their family “because all a family should worry about is helping their child live.” 

“It’s priceless,” Tiffany says of St. Jude’s services.

Jack’s treatment was as positive as radiation can be. By the end of 2016, his tumor had shrunk and was stable. He’s now in fourth grade.

For more information, visit StJude.org or Facebook and Twitter: @stjude.