Jaymeson: Leader of the Pack

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Dad, Jaymeson, Mom (Pat Maus, Sunny Lane Photography)

Wolves are pack animals—family-oriented and protective. When Jaymeson was diagnosed with a brain tumor…he embraced it as his spirit animal. Because it was important for him to know that he is not fighting alone.

“It’s fitting,” said Adrian, Jaymeson’s dad.

“He knew that we weren’t giving up on him,” said Heather, Jaymeson’s mom.

Summer—typically a time filled with fun and relaxation—was stressful and uneasy for Jaymeson. He battled sickness and fatigue, resulting in multiple hospital visits for stomach pain and vomiting. But initial tests did not reveal anything uncommon.

Was it a virus? Was it appendicitis? Was it abdominal migraines?

There was one glaring concern: Jaymeson’s white blood cell count was extremely high.

“Something was definitely wrong in his body,” Adrian said.

The family traveled away from home for a second opinion, and to find answers, the doctor ordered an MRI. The date was Sept. 15, 2023.

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Dad, Jaymeson (Pat Maus, Sunny Lane Photography)

“It was the worst call I have ever received,” said Adrian. “They said my son had a large mass in the back of his head, and we need to go to the emergency room immediately.”

“Jaymeson answered my phone when Adrian called, and Jaymeson said, ‘Something is wrong; dad was really upset.’ And everything changed.”

The doctor told them it was medulloblastoma—a rare, cancerous brain tumor that starts in the cerebellum. The tumor was well-contained, but it was fast-growing. The doctor turned to Jaymeson and said, “I’ll get it out.”

Jaymeson looked at his parents and said, “It’s OK. It’s all going to be OK.”

“It’s who Jaymeson is,” Heather said. “He is always taking care of others.”

On Sept. 16, 2023, Jaymeson was admitted to the hospital, a place he and his mom would be for the next 147 nights.

“I told everyone, ‘You may see me, but you will never see my wife,’ because she will not leave Jaymeson’s side,” said Adrian.

The first step was an emergency shunt—a cerebrospinal fluid drain. The procedure was a success, so Jaymeson prepared for the second step: surgical resection of the tumor and a permanent shunt in his stomach. The surgery was less successful. Jaymeson was unable to speak, and his eyes were responding sporadically.

“The nurses’ reactions were telling; I knew it was bad,” Adrian said.

“They said he would walk that day,” said Heather. “But it didn’t work out that way.”

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Mom, Jaymeson, Dad (Pat Maus, Sunny Lane Photography)

The doctor said Jaymeson needed proton beam therapy, so he was transported by ambulance to Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Mayo Clinic is the authority in cancer treatment and research, and one of 44 operating proton beam therapy centers in the country.

The plan was aggressive, but necessary. Jaymeson would undergo six weeks of therapy, Monday through Friday. The doctor said, “It will be hard, but it will get easier.”

Jaymeson and I always say, “We can do hard things,” Heather said.

But the hard was immediate. Jaymeson couldn’t speak or control his hands. He developed posterior fossa syndrome and an imbalanced equilibrium. His stomach was sensitive, and he threw up multiple times in his feeding tube.

But it started to get easier.

“As proton beam therapy started to work… it was like he finally woke up,” said Heather. “It was such a beautiful moment.”

After proton beam therapy, Jaymeson started chemotherapy. While chemotherapy was available closer to home, Adrian and Heather decided that he needed to be at Mayo Clinic. Jaymeson struggled with physical therapy early, but “he knew he had to keep fighting.”

And while Jaymeson was inpatient, and Heather stayed by his side, his dad stayed at the Ronald McDonald House in Rochester.

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Dad, Jaymeson, Mom (Pat Maus, Sunny Lane Photography)

“Our ability to stay at the Ronald McDonald House was the deciding factor in us staying in Rochester at Mayo Clinic,” Adrian said. “Mayo is the best place for him to get better, but without the House…we wouldn’t be here.”

“I don’t know what we would have done or where we would have ended up without the Ronald McDonald House,” said Heather. “You are so insulated because of the horrible thing that is happening in your life, but the House takes care of everything.”

“The House allowed us to focus on Jaymeson; it allowed us to be present,” said Adrian.

As Jaymeson slowly improved, Heather felt more comfortable leaving for short periods of time during the day. She started participating in House activities—especially the pet therapy program. Since the family home and their six pets were being tended to by Jaymeson’s three older siblings…the pet therapy dogs made Heather feel at home.

“The care I received from the House enabled me to provide better care for Jaymeson,” said Heather. “My mental and physical health…my family’s health…”

“The House saved us.”

Adrian said everything the House provides—food, shelter, community, blankets—it all makes a difference. And he knows it takes a village for it to be possible.

“We wouldn’t be able to stay in Rochester without the House,” said Adrian. “I don’t think people understand how much it means. We have been away from home for five months, but Jaymeson’s future—his life—depends on Mayo Clinic.”

“You can’t put a price on your child’s life,” said Heather. “The House made it so that we didn’t have to choose between our son’s medical care and our family’s well-being.”

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Jaymeson, Mom (Pat Maus, Sunny Lane Photography)

Jaymeson is on the road to recovery, but it is a long and uncertain road. He still needs chemotherapy, and it will become more and more intense. But Jaymeson is a fighter, and he has his family—and his community—supporting him.

“We don’t know what the future looks like,” said Heather. “We will be here for a while yet, but we know that Jaymeson is safe.”

“Jaymeson’s goal is to walk out of here,” said Adrian. “You can’t put a number on someone’s heart and their will to get better.”

Both Adrian and Heather showed their support for their son with Team Jaymeson tattoos, complete with wolf silhouettes. While Heather has many meaningful tattoos, it was Adrian’s first tattoo. But he knew it was important.

“He’s never alone,” said Adrian.

“And the Ronald McDonald House is a part of our team,” Heather said.

For more information on Jaymeson’s journey, please visit www.teamjaymeson.com.

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Dad, Jaymeson, Mom (Pat Maus, Sunny Lane Photography)
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