Milton resident Laura Will has a tough and determined younger cousin. Jack, a 12-year-old entering seventh grade at Milton Academy, is still laughing and joking through a trying battle with Osteosarcoma, a malignant bone tumor that usually develops during a teen’s rapid growth.
With the support of his family and friends, Jack is in the middle of a 40-week cycle of aggressive chemotherapy that started in February and is expected to conclude this December.
“Forty weeks, for a 12 year old, is forever,” said Will.
Since Jack was born, the two have had a tight bond. Jack is the first infant Will, now 25, remembers holding and the first kid she babysat. As Jack got older, and developed a knack for tennis, his college tennis-playing cousin would play with him and provide coaching.
Will said Jack has a great sense of humor and has seen most P-13 rated comedy released in his lifetime.
“He’s all humor, all day,” she said.
With that humor, even through a tough time, Jack plans to pen a book of original jokes for the Jimmy Fund floor.
Prior to his diagnosis, Jack was experiencing knee pain he chalked up to athletic aches from tennis. A check up with the doctor determined it was much more, a benign tumor.
A follow-up appointment after the growth was removed, showed the tumor had returned and this time was malignant.
Since February, Jack has been receiving outpatient care, getting most of his IV’s and other medication at his Milton home.
“It’s a higher degree of coordination of care, but it’s so much better,” Will said.
The exception is his Thursday trips to the Dana Farber/Children’s Hospital Cancer Center for chemotherapy.
Coping with the stress of her cousin’s prognosis, Will started to run.
“I’ve always run through crisis,” she said.
Will is channeling her running into a greater good, joining more than 100 members of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute team in running the Falmouth Road Race on Sunday, August 12.
The fundraising aspect of joining the Dana Farber Team, and the connection their family, including Jack, has to Falmouth and Cape Cod made the Falmouth Road Race a logical target for her nervous-energy-fueled running.
“The mental and physical energy it takes for me to run pales in comparison to the mental and physical energy it takes for Jack to get in the car every Thursday,” said Will of the seven-mile road race.
Jack’s family and friends have worked to make those difficult Thursday’s a bit brighter with an effort called “Hats off for Jack.” Through networking, the family tries to get a famous person to sign a hat for Jack each week. The day before his hospital visit, Jack receives a series of text messages with clues about who signed that week’s hat. Once he guesses, he is given the hat on Thursday.
The email chain has netted an impressive collection of autographed caps, spanning all his interests. For his tennis playing side, Jack has received hats from recent Olympic Gold Medalist Andy Murray and the world’s number one ranked tennis player, Roger Federer. From the comedy realm, Steve Carell, of The Office and several movies, signed a hat.
Jack has also received caps from politicians like Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, a Milton resident and Milton Academy graduate. A national politician by the name of Barack Obama also sent Jack a personalized autograph.
Despite the immense family support, with everything from the celebrity signatures to Will’s fundraising run, she said it never feels adequate.
“There’s nothing you can do that’s enough,” said Will.
While the family may be in a bit of a wait-and-see mode with Jack’s treatment, they have a higher collective medical knowledge than many families.
Jack’s grandfather Dr. John Robinson, or Pops to his grandchildren, retired last year from Milton Pediatrics.
Robinson’s work in medicine has rubbed off on Will, who recently received her nursing license from Columbia University and is continuing her education there to become a nurse practitioner.
This background helps will better grasp the care her cousin is receiving.
“I understand what it is on a bigger scale,” Will said of pediatric cancer, referencing other patients she’s met, particularly on an oncology floor rotation at Columbia.
Will is now back in Milton on a five week break from college. Jack also has school on his mind, as he recently started tutoring so he doesn’t fall behind because of an expected, three-week late start to classes in the fall.
Though Will said the plan is always changing, Jack expects to attend most of the upcoming semester and have another surgery in December, during winter break.
With a plan in place and laughs nearby, Jack and his family are looking positively to the future.
“You think about the best result and right now, that’s a full recovery,” said Will.
To donate to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, visit Laura Will’s runner page at http://www.rundanafarber.org/falmouth2012/lauraw. Donations for the Falmouth Road Race will be accepted until mid-September.