California | Tough Cookie


In a plain manila envelope, a scrapbook delivered one of our more inspiring good stories. It was a beautifully bound story of Jessen, a 6-year-old cancer survivor and his mom, who’s making sure that all his days are ones to remember.

In March of 2013 doctors found that Jessen had a tumor and was later diagnosed with stage IV high-risk neuroblastoma. The tumor was around his left kidney and abdominal aorta, and the cancer spread to his bones and other organs. He went through 6 rounds of chemo, 5 surgeries, a stem cell transplant, radiation, and antibody treatments. He wasn’t allowed to go to public places because of his compromised immune system. But Jessen loves tractors and all things truck-related. So his mom would park outside construction sites so he could watch and get out of the house.

The moment he was first diagnosed, his mother Melanie quit her job so she could be with Jessen always. They had to give up their house and their cat because Jessen couldn’t be around animals for a while. They moved in with his grandma and in March of 2013 he was finally given the OK to have a pet. They adopted a cat which Jessen named Catapillar after the construction equipment. At the end of April 2014 Jessen had his last inpatient procedure and was discharged. The hospital staff celebrated with him and Jessen wore special Life is Good tee with a crane on it. 

While Jessen is healthy today, his type of cancer has a high relapse rate, so since being released from the hospital, Jessen and his mom have been checking off items on his “Live life to the full-list.” So far he has gone up in a hot air balloon, visited Disney and Legoland, petted a dolphin, visited the John Deere Headquarters, rode in a helicopter, joined t-ball, and graduated from pre-school. 

Jessen still has many things on his list we are hoping to help him check off.

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