John Austin, born 29JUN11, to his beaming proud parents. The family was starting a whole new life. Mom had just graduated with her second degree, and dad had just been cross trained into a new position with the United States Air Force. It was like a dream they both had their dream jobs, and their first child.
At three months old Jason (dad) noticed that John appeared to be a little yellowish looking. It was the weekend, and the new parents just assumed it was a bit of jaundice. Well, when Jason took John to daycare on Monday it was evident that this yellowish coloring was more than just jaundice.
So off to the pediatrician they went. Labs were ordered and taken. John’s bilirubin count was very high, so off to a GI specialist they went. And, of course, more labs were taken, and John’s CBC was elevated slightly. But the results were sent to Hematology and Oncology. That is when it was found to be the worst nightmare one could imagine. Cancer. Unfortunately, Kristy (mom) was not at the doctor’s office when the news was broken to Jason.
Arriving home from work, Kristy was surprised to find her husband and baby boy already home. As she walked in she was under the assumption that everything was fine. But then Jason told her that she might want to sit down. And then Jason told her that John might have cancer and that they had to go back to OKC and would probably be there awhile.
The might have cancer part, well that wasn’t quite right. It was cancer it was a rare form of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia with an MLL gene rearrangement. But how? How does a three-month-old contract cancer. It’s not like the child is out doing any crazy activities. Parents were not party animals. Why did this happen to their baby John? These are the questions that all families ask and want an answer too. But, unfortunately, there generally is never an answer to these questions.
John’s cancer carried with it, a 30% survival rate. So, Kristy and Jason had to decide whether to poison their son and try and keep him alive or just let the cancer do what it does. After reading about all the side effects of the medication, the family was hesitant but they wanted to try and do everything they could to preserve John’s life.
In October after treatment had started, the first several months John was golden. Hell, he hadn’t even lost his hair by December, and the parents were excited and confident that John had this under control. Wrong. Just before New Years Eve 2011, John was admitted to the hospital for lethargy, low blood counts and dehydration. While at the hospital, John stopped breathing unbeknownst to mom. She went to give him some meds and saw that his mouth was purple and then noticed his head was purple, thankfully there was a nurse right there to swoop in and saved his life, twice.
There was never a reason given for John’s two episodes at the hospital. He was resuscitated twice, but nobody ever told the parents what happened. And this wreaked havoc on mom and her psyche. As stated by Kristy: “This, my friend, is the scariest thing about it because, to me that means that at any time it could happen again. How am I supposed to sleep? Or take a shower? Or eat? Or do anything that would require my eyes to come off of him? And this isn’t uncommon for kids with cancer. They may not all experience respiratory arrest, but shit just happens!”
John from then on struggled with the treatment that was provided to help beat cancer. He had ulcers on his bottom, he couldn’t eat solid foods until he turned 18 months. His skin peeled because of all the retaining water. He was always puffy. He couldn’t sleep unless someone held him, and he had more surgeries then mom can count.
But this amazing kid went through all of this, and you know what never changed? That smile. Through all the pain and misery, the smile remained the same. Up and down the hospital hallways on his toy car, grinning from ear to ear. John’s cancer is now in remission and the parents refer to him as a warrior, a cancer slayer.
Nowadays you can find John going a 150 miles per hour without a care in the world. But mom and dad know all to well the chances of a relapse. But, they try and not focus on that and look at the positives. They have a baby daughter (Sarah) that tries to keep up with John. But Sarah just wishes he would slow down a little.
While there is more to the story, this space could never tell the exact story of how the Austin’s and John dealt with their entire ordeal. But, the family has remained active in the cancer community because those that are within the community understand how each one feels. It’s a bond that’s built upon hardship and reluctancy. The families fight for each other, do whatever they can and help each other because no one wants to see someone’s child die.
So today 04JUN15, I hope on the saddle to ride in honor of a child that has dealt with a lifetime of crap that someone shouldn’t have too. A child that dealt with that crap with a smile on his face the whole way through. A cancer slayer, and a hero Mr. John Austin. It’s an honor my friend to ride for such a special young man. May your day be blessed as I know mine will because it’s a blessing to have known and shared your story. Keep fighting and keep living life on your terms. Godspeed Ken
If you would like to share your child’s battle with cancer and allow Ken to honor your hero/angel then email: firstname.lastname@example.org
To see more about John and his battle go to: https://www.facebook.com/john.c.austin.16?ref=br_rs