Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Cancer Survivor Looks Back

What would you do if you found out your 5-year-old had cancer?

In February of 2000, Matt and Mary Ferrick noticed their son was limping, and they did what any parent would do - they brought him to the doctor. Scans revealed that a previously-undetected tumor in his stomach had now spread to his hip. Jay was rushed 100 miles from their home in Ukiah to UCSF to be treated for stage 4 neuroblastoma. Pulled out of kindergarten, he was admitted to the hospital, and his family stayed at Family House on and off for 14 months while he underwent chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and a stem cell transplant.

"One thing I remember about the Family House is that I always looked forward to going.  Especially I remember because there were video games in the downstairs living room, and me and my little brother looked forward to playing video games because we didn't have them at home," recalls Jay, now 19 years old and a healthy sophomore at Chico State.

"Jay is doing very well, he lives a normal life, and is able to do everything that everybody else does.  He's been 12-13 years in remission now.  Of the type of cancer he had, 70% of the kids relapse, but Jay has been healthy since he completed his treatment. It's been a blessing to put it in the rear view mirror," says his father, Matt.

"Family House provided support for the whole family…  [For Jay's younger brother, Thomas,] having a sibling who's getting all the attention - some people really struggle with that, feeling they're in the background…. we've always tried to make them feel equal." Playing Nintendo in the Family House living room was a highlight for both boys. "[Thomas] thought it was a big thrill to go to San Francisco and see his big brother;" at only 3 years old at the time, he couldn't comprehend the seriousness of the situation, Matt recalls.

Jay's oncologist, Dr. Katherine Matthay, says that "Neuroblastoma is a very, very serious cancer that we find only in young children. More than 50% of children already have the cancer spread to their bones and their bone marrow at the time the cancer is detected." At the time of Jay's diagnosis and treatment, fewer than 15% of children survived metastatic neuroblastoma.

Dick and Anne Grace of Grace Family Vineyards are longtime Family House supporters, and have even awarded a grant to Dr. Matthay for cancer research. The targeted radiotherapy treatment that was developed from that grant is now one of the most active treatments for widespread and resistant neuroblastoma.  Dick says, "Annie and I had the extraordinary privilege of walking a portion of Jay's cure path alongside both he and his family, and it was there that we got the opportunity to see the courage and see the commitment and the resolve that he had in navigating this path."

Looking back, Jay hopes that his battle with cancer will be an inspiration to others who are currently undergoing treatment. "When we go to UCSF, we visit '7 Long,' the floor I was on, and I see all the kids there, and I hope that they see how I am, and hope that they can be cured and be a regular kid like me."

We are delighted that the Ferricks continue to be part of the Family House family!

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1 comment:

  1. Never Give Up!
    “An Awakening”

    When I was diagnosed with Breast cancer a few years back, I reacted like most who receive a cancer diagnose; first thing came to mind was a “death sentence”. However, I found out later that it was truly “an awakening”. I began questioning God, why would you do this to me? What had I done in life so bad to have this placed upon me? But instead of bemoaning my fate, I decided to look for the positive side of it. There has to be a reason for it all.

    I also realized that I was about to face a new beginning, new hope, do and see more with a whole new prospective on life. When I think of the “gift of life” that was given to me, I know that I will develop and gain strength from all my experiences. After going through all that I did during my breast cancer period, I was left with a few complications I now have to live with; one being daily pain. For a while, I wasn't happy with the way I looked around my breast area, nor the pain I had to endure each day, but I decided to snap out of it. Even after being diagnosed with another cancer (colon) a few years later. Which totally took me by surprise. But even with the pain I had to endure through each diagnose, and all the struggles I've dealt with all my life, I still feel truly blessed. I think about the individuals that are no longer among us. I also realized that there will always be someone worse off than I am. I reminded myself, that I “still have my life”, so who am I to complain.

    One day during one of my surgeries, I experienced something of a miracle, as if I went to the other side, so I felt the compulsion to write it down. I turn that experience into a poem and I called it “Peace”. Writing had become therapy for me. I took that poem, along with many others I had composed during my breast cancer period and placed them into book form. I was blessed enough to have that book published. I later had another inspirational children's book published, with a third one on the way. I'm hoping that anyone who has the opportunity to read my first book of poems, get out of them, what I placed in all of them. My poems are from the heart, as real as any could ever be. With the words and phrases of each poem of statement, I wish to make a positive impact on someone who's ill or otherwise, where they could develop the strength to embrace life in a whole new way. I never anticipated becoming a writer, I just became one. I truly believe when you survive a horrific tragedy or a horrible disease as cancer, it's for a reason, “you have a purpose” and I want to live to find find out exactly what that is for me.

    That's what I'm all about now, inspiration. I would have never become a writer, producing inspirational poems and stories, if I had not gone through all that I did. I'm a true example that you can survive cancer not once, but twice, providing you catch it in time. I won't say all will be easy, I can't say everyone will survive it, but I can say, have faith and allow that faith to direct your path.

    Karen Rice
    x2 Cancer Survivor/Author
    Houston, Texas