February 13, 2013 - In September of 2011, Clarkston graduate Jason Heming and his wife, Natasha, got news parents never want to hear. Their youngest boy, Jack, was diagnosed with cancer.
At age four, Jack began complaining about headaches that continued to become increasingly painful. After a CAT scan, his physicians discovered Jack had a rare, aggressive form of cancer called Anaplastic Medulloblastoma, and they performed surgery. While the operation was successful, the cancer caused decreased vision in Jack's left eye, but there was no damage to his motor skills.
Despite the initial surgery, a tumor grew in Jack's brain.
As a result of Jack's illness, Jason Heming has watched his son undergo two additional surgeries, blood transfusions, MRIs, radiation and chemotherapy treatments. Through it all, Jack has been a fighter, his dad said.
Jack doesn't like needles, but "he's never complained about it," Heming pointed out. "He just does it. Even in the hospital, he wants to play and doesn't lose energy."
Although the initial cancer diagnosis came as a shock to the Heming family, dealing with Jack's illness is now routine. "It's a part of daily life now," Heming said.
These days, six-year-old Jack is busy with kindergarten, and when he has to be gone for chemo, his teacher sends homework home. Despite needing to be away from the classroom, Jack does well in school.
Like other kindergarteners, he loves Legos and riding scooters. After getting a Big Wheel for Christmas, Jack's been speeding passed nurses in the halls of the hospital. He also enjoys spending time in the kitchen, and he's even created a cooking show.
Donning a green chef's hat and uniform, Jack prepares sandwiches, burritos, cookies, and cupcakes before the camera. Then, with the help of his mother and aunt, videos are posted on his Facebook page called "Jack's Fight."
Jack's energy and upbeat attitude is what gives his father inspiration. "He's done so great it actually gives me the outlook that he may pull through this," Heming said.
Even though he spends a lot of time with doctors, Jack doesn't fully understand the severity of his condition, his father explained. "He doesn't know what it could mean in the long run," he said. Instead, six-year-old Jack thinks of his tumor as a monkey in his brain and talks about forming an army to attack the bad monkey.
Looking to soldiers for help is a familiar concept to Jack because his father is a Marine Corp Staff Sergeant who has been serving for 13 years. While teaching parachute courses at Ft. Lee Virginia, he and his wife take Jack back and forth to Virginia Commonwealth University Hospital for treatments.
The cost of caring for Jack's treatments has been expensive, Heming said, but notes with gratitude that many have donated to "Jack's Fight" through his Facebook page. Jack's grandparents, who reside in Clarkston, have collected donations at work to help out too.
According to Grandparents Peggy and Tim Heming, "it's been a rollercoaster ride." The hardest part is that their children and grandkids live in Virginia, and Jack can't always travel because he needs to make his cancer treatments, said Jack's grandmother. Spending time with Jack and his older brother, Jason, is a treat they get only a couple of times a year.
Despite all Jack's family has been through, "we just keep our hopes up," Heming said. Jack's final round of chemotherapy will be in March, and he and his family are optimistic that the doctors will have good news. See photos, videos, and updates by finding Jack's Fight on www.facebook.com.
Clarkston News reporter