By AMY GAREIS
News-Herald Staff Writer
FREEPORT – Family, friends and countless others are showing their support for 14-year-old Zack Jones in his battle against a rare form of liver cancer.
Zack, the son of Jon and Tina Jones of Freeport, was recently diagnosed with undifferentiated embryonal sarcoma, an extremely rare form of cancer after a malignant tumor was found on his liver last month. The disease, while often fatal, has shown some promise for long-term survival amid surgical removal of the tumor.
Jon said his son started treatment Wednesday and surgery could occur in about three or four months, after which the boy would have to undergo more chemo plus radiation. Zack was due to come home this weekend from Children’s Hospital at UPMC in Pittsburgh. “It is rare. He’s only the second [case] they’ve had at Children’s Hospital,” he said. “His attitude’s been great.”
Zack first became ill in March, but an ultrasound could not detect any cancer at the time. Most recently, he appeared jaundiced and suffered stomach pains. A tumor was located and a biopsy showed it was malignant. A stint was placed in his stomach to drain his liver and gall bladder, while the latter might be removed.
Generous neighbors have helped bale hay on the family’s property while they stayed at the hospital and relatives remodeled Zack’s bathroom to remove mold since he is prone to infection. His low immune system also impacts his love of the outdoors and he must refrain from dust and other factors. Zack also will be tutored to keep up with schooling.
Jon said his sister, Jolene Jones, started the “Prayers for Zack” Facebook page shortly after the diagnosis was made and the response has been tremendous. The family has been touched by the outpouring of love and prayers from people around the country since the addition of the Facebook page. The number of fans even jumped above the 1,000 mark since it was formed nearly three weeks ago. “We’ve had calls from California, Tennessee and North Carolina. People also saw it on signs in front of the churches. The support’s been overwhelming,” he noted. “It brings a tear to our eyes. People are going out of their way to help.”
“It’s overwhelming how it’s brought everybody together,” Grandmother Carolyn Davia commented. “We have prayers everywhere and we know it will bring us through. That’s what’s keeping us going. I just can’t believe how people responded. It’s so nice when they come out to support you. We’re so grateful for the support.”
The community can continue rallying around Zack through a series of fundraisers. A “Dance for Zack” was held Friday at Union Local Middle School, where he has attended as an eighth-grade student, played football and wrestled, while the middle school and senior high football teams are sporting his number on their helmets this season as a sign of solidarity. His teachers also have collected money and sent gift cards and a survival kit full of food, games and books. Jon added that a family friend ordered 1,000 silicone bracelets emblazoned with “Prayers for Zack,” which will be sold for another fundraiser.
On Monday, the Blue Ribbon General 4-H Club is hosting a car wash outside Charlie’s Barbershop in Freeport. The event runs from 9 a.m. to noon and freewill donations will be taken. Other moneymakers include a raffle for an Ohio State University recliner by the Freeport Fire Department, a benefit by the Tri-County Showstoppers 4-H Club, of which Zack is a member, and various groups on Make a Difference Day Oct. 23 at the county fairgrounds and bake sales through the Union Local High School FFA, of which Jon is an advisor. A candlelight vigil is also set at the Jets Stadium on Sept. 12 at 7:30 p.m. in Zack’s honor.
Zack shared his gratitude and thanked the public for their kindness. “I want to thank everyone that’s been praying for me and sending cards and get-well wishes,” he said.
More information is available on the “Prayers for Zack” Web page on Facebook.com. Anyone interested in working on the Oct. 23 benefit can contact Janet Fenstamaker at 740-968-3096 or Amy Edwards at 740-945-8700.