Javohn and his dad, Thomas, did not expect such a long and difficult journey. But after two tumors and one year of radiation and chemotherapy…it is almost time for Javohn to rejoin his five siblings in Belize.
“He is a fighter; he is strong,” said Thomas. “And he has so much joy.”
When doctors in Belize – a Central American country with less than 500,000 people – discovered a tumor on Javohn’s brain, they said, “Take him to the United States…if you want him to live.” His first surgery was in Denver and it was successful, but he would need a second surgery at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. After the surgery, doctors recommended radiation treatment for three months. All was well.
One year later, during a routine checkup at Mayo Clinic, doctors discovered the brain tumor was gone…but he developed a tumor on his skull. Javohn needed eight months of chemotherapy. The treatment plan was hard on his body, particularly his kidneys. But it is almost time to go home.
“It is rough,” Thomas said. “This is the first time our family has been apart. But it is something we need to do.”
When they first arrived in Rochester, they stayed at a hotel because their situation was short-term; when they learned about the additional treatment, they were referred to the Ronald McDonald House of Rochester.
“I was shocked,” said Thomas. “I did not expect this hospitality. It is truly a home away from home. It is amazing.”
Thomas mentioned the volunteers who made them feel welcome, despite it being a different country and culture. And how he can only say thanks to the donors who have provided so much for him and his family.
“The House has everything we need,” Thomas said. “It is perfect.”
“It keeps my mind off of the hard things that I am going through,” said Javohn.
Javohn’s mom, Doret, and Thomas have taken turns staying at the House and caring for their other children in Belize. One of his brothers, Thomas Jr., has visited as well. But Javohn has not seen his other four siblings, including his twin sister, in nearly one year.
“I talk to her every day,” Javohn said. “I miss them all so much.”
“It is always noisy at our house,” said Thomas.
Javohn and Thomas experienced many firsts during their time in Minnesota, including snow and sub-zero temperatures. It is rare for the temperature to drop below 60 degrees any day in Belize; Rochester was negative-15 degrees on a February day.
“They said it would be cold,” Thomas said. “It is different in Minnesota than it is in Belize. But the House provided winter clothing and Mayo Clinic is connected by walkways.”
“We were very thankful.”
Even though it is summer in Minnesota, Javohn is excited for summer at home.
“I cannot wait to fish, farm, and work,” said Javohn.
The family grows its own ground food – plantains, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, watermelon, pumpkins, papayas, bananas, mangoes – which Javohn enjoys harvesting. Mangoes are currently in season and particularly delicious.
Javohn and Thomas are excited to be on the water back home, but they were able to experience fly fishing and ice fishing with a friend in Minnesota. They described the latter as “crazy, but fun!”
“This is the most time he has ever spent inside; he is always outside,” said Thomas.
Javohn will need medical evaluations every three months for the next two years. Each visit should be short in duration. Doctors are currently working on a plan for Javohn to be seen closer to home, but as Thomas said, “The Ronald McDonald House is our home.”
“The House kept Javohn alive,” Thomas said.