It Takes A Village
With a pandemic raging and a hurricane in the forecast it can be a challenge to feel grateful, but local families like the Whites remind us of what’s really important and the power we all have to reach out to help those less fortunate.
Next Wednesday will be a good day for 8-year-old Jack White. When he was 6, White was diagnosed with leukemia. Now, after much pain, frustration and anxiety, his port will be removed.
A port is a small device placed under the skin that makes it easier, safer and less painful to administer drugs and fluids, and to give or draw blood. It’s removal in a cancer patient is considered a treatment milestone and a positive harbinger towards a new, healthier beginning.
“It marks a turning point in his treatment,” says his mother, Jessica White. “It’s a positive sign that his cancer is under control. It doesn’t mean that he’s cured or that he can stop treatment completely, but it certainly means the worst is over.”
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Every day in the United States, 44 families hear the devastating news that their child has cancer, yet less than 4 cents of every $1 of federal cancer research funding goes to solving childhood cancers.
Fortunately, numerous organizations exist to help families, including the American Childhood Cancer Organization, The St. Baldrick’s Foundation and Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.
The Whites say they have been helped by many organizations and numerous people who have used their labors of love to benefit their son. The Leukemia and Lymphoma society (LLS) is one of those organizations. They gave the family financial support last year when times were tight and helped out again at the start of COVID-19.
“They gave Jack his iPad when he was diagnosed,” Jessica says. “What an invaluable tool to keep a kid occupied for hours upon hours in hospital rooms and during infusions, etc.”
“The society came to me in my time of need,” says Jack. “I was having a really bad time. Bad things were happening and then LLS gave me my iPad. Also, thank you to Make a Wish Society for trying to get me my pro gaming system so I can become a YouTuber because I kind of wanna have fans.”
At the beginning of COVID-19, Jack was chosen as the “Best Boy” for the Mississippi/Louisiana chapter of LLS as part of the organization’s Man and Woman of the Year fundraiser. Among other things, it meant having his picture taken by a professional photographer for the cover April 2020 cover of Biz New Orleans magazine.
“It was all very fancy,” Jessica says. “It would have also meant attending cocktail parties and various shindigs to promote the LLS and help fundraise. He was especially looking forward to the big gala to be hosted in June at the WW2 museum. Then, as you know, everything was canceled. But, I got a call last month asking if Jack would be the Best Boy again this year. They really understood that he had been sorely disappointed to miss out.”
The White family has also benefited from the The Pablove Foundation, whose Pablove Shutterbugs program provides a distraction from cancer treatment by encouraging youth to create art that is beautiful and powerful.
According to Jessica, after being diagnosed, Jack lost a lot of confidence in himself. Suddenly, she says, he had an illness that no one knows how or why he got.
“Even his own body didn’t make sense to him anymore,” she says. “All his tenacity and focus was spent on mastering being a cancer patient and learning to navigate the world of port accesses, endless doctor visits, hospital stays and handfuls of pills.
Pablove, she says, was the first normal thing Jack did after his diagnosis.
“Digital photography offers an immediate gratification that appealed to Jack on a deep level,” she says. “So when he could be a real photographer immediately with real work on a real gallery wall whose work was worthy of being discussed and appreciated by his peers with so little arduous ‘learning the ropes’ necessary, he blossomed.”
Jessica is quick to praise volunteers with the program as “some of the kindest and most nurturing people we will ever meet.”
“I also can’t over emphasize how healing it was for John and I (her husband) to have two peaceful hours to ourselves during his class,” she says. “A pediatric cancer diagnosis requires parents to be engaged, aware and constantly watchful all the time for years on end. Those breaks revived our tired souls.”
The Whites also want to give local organization Angels’ Place a well-deserved shout out. Angels’ Place trains respite volunteers to watch over children at hospitals and/or provide household aid to families free of charge.
They have provided Jack with Christmas presents and school supplies for many years.
Catholic Charities also offered help by paying the White’s mortgage for five months.
“A pediatric cancer diagnosis is terrifying by business,” Jessica says. “It is also extremely isolating. Being supported by so many wonderful people and organizations helped us feel like we were less alone. When you are shocked and terrified into a new paradigm with danger and fear omnipresent, the undeniable presence of eager helpers is an amazing balm, and a necessary one! Being broke and terrified, we were so deeply touched and grateful for every kind deed and gesture.”
How You Can Help Children with Cancer
Choose a charity and give or volunteer. Your money goes to many children such as Jack and helps families cope with devastating disease.