Hunter Gifford, of Rochester, is a funny, kind, energetic, seven year old and the youngest of three boys. On Nov 1, 2016 his family received the devastating news that Hunter had Ewing’s Sarcoma, a serious childhood cancer, and it was rapidly spreading in his tiny body.
Lisa (Hunter’s mom) said, “We were just in shock. We couldn’t believe this was happening to our family. Everyone always thinks this happens to other people, but now it was happening to us. And we already have a special needs child. There’s no way one family can have two major things to deal with.” Yet this was their reality.
Hunter has undergone countless tests, chest tubes, bone marrow biopsies, has had a feeding tube placed, chemotherapy, and is currently undergoing Proton Beam radiation. When driving past St Mary’s hospital you may have seen large cut out letters in his window saying “Pray for me”.
But the one rainbow in all of Hunter’s family’s chaos has been the support received from Brighter Tomorrows. In addition to attending the monthly family get-togethers and networking with other families facing childhood cancer, a highlight was attending the annual Family Winter Retreat. “We met some amazing, strong, courageous kids and equally courageous parents. We pray that we are a part of this special group for many years.”
You hear the telethons on the radio, see the commercials on TV, hear stories of friends, and silently think to yourself, thank goodness that’s not my child going through cancer. Then it happens; your child gets this severe bone pain that won’t go away and the doctors tell you it’s Leukemia. Your healthy, strong, smiling boy gets this diagnosis. There is hope, but the treatments are rough.
Jack was diagnosed with Leukemia in September of 2016. He is a very caring, compassionate, kind and humble young man. But he is also a fighter, determined to beat this cancer. These past few months of chemotherapy have not been easy. And sometimes it felt like everything that could go wrong did. In April, the doctors told us that he would be a candidate for a bone marrow transplant, something that would give Jack his best chance at eradicating his cancer. His twin sister Kaylie, was a 100% bone marrow match and would become Jack’s donor. On May 19th, the lifesaving bone marrow was drawn from Kaylie and given to Jack. Our family appropriately called this “Hero Day”. Today Jack remains in the transplant unit waiting for Kaylie’s bone marrow to take over. If all goes according to plan, Kaylie’s bone marrow will become Jack’s, giving him his best chance of remaining cancer free!
“Team Smiling Jack” would like you to join us in giving back to the organization Brighter Tomorrows who helped us, provided hope, and supported us throughout his journey. A journey that we hope will soon be over with his recent bone marrow transplant. Please join us at the Go for the Gold event on July 8th. We would love to have you join our team or simply donate online if you are unable to attend. Thank you.