Most of us won’t give much thought about life and death until we are well into our later years, much less battle between the two on a daily basis. But for some unfortunate few it’s a fear that consumes their every waking thought. And for one Tomball, Texas mother, it’s the reason her son sleeps with her every night.
It should be the last thing on any child’s mind but the fear consumed this ten year old boy’s every waking thought.
Jessica Medinger probably thought her life was difficult a few years ago. She was a recent graduate of Nebraska’s Concordia University and just like any other single mother of a 5-year-old boy, she had to juggle a job and raising a child. But then fate dealt the worst hand a parent could get: her son Drake, the love of her life, a happy and playful young child, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in 2012.
“It is about to get real, real hard and real quick.”
A horrible battle began with chemotherapy, blood transfusions, spinal taps, and surgery. But there was light at the end of the tunnel, and after 4 hellish years the disease finally went into remission and Drake went back to being a normal boy, playing sports with his friends and going to school.
But Drake’s childhood was cut short once again. Just six months after going into remission he was diagnosed with testicular cancer and chemotherapy destroyed his appetite. Whenever her “skin and bones” son ate more than a single piece of food, it was a huge accomplishment.
“Yesterday I was able to get him to eat half a container of yogurt, 3 bites of pancakes, and 1 of scrambled eggs”, Jessica said. “I consider that a victory.”
On a Facebook post she wrote, “Parenting is not for the faint of heart, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
But that was on a good day. Most days though, Jessica had to beg her son to eat a single green bean for dinner or drink one glass of water throughout the day. At one point, Drake had to take as much as 44 chemo pills in only 24 hours.
“This is him, throwing up every medication I give him and him dry heaving because his stomach is empty except for the spoonful of yogurt I just gave him with his pills.”
Then one day as Jessica Medinger carried her son Drake, whom she affectionately calls ‘Stinky Joe,’ to the bathroom and watched him huddle over the toilet in his pull-ups, his face gripping in pain, she felt a strong urge to take his picture and share it on Facebook in an effort show the world that “life isn’t pretty, and cancer destroys a person.”
She posted the now-viral photo on a Facebook page that chronicles her son’s battle with cancer along with a raw account of their day to day struggle in a brutally honest, paragraphs-long Facebook post.
“This is having your son sleep with you at night because he is afraid of something happening and being alone, and by something I mean dying. This is having middle of the night conversations with a ten year old, asking if he dies will he go to heaven and will he see his dad there and be able to talk and play with him.”
The heartbreaking photo of Drake made headlines around the world along with a message for those with the same struggles: get ready to hear your child say he won’t make it through the night, get ready to watch him suffer to the point that you can’t touch him, get ready to fight because your child needs you to be strong.
“This is him telling me, ‘mommy, I’m not going to make it.’ This is him not wanting to be touched, because it hurts too much, and using morphine to get through his day. This is him telling me he is scared and thinks he won’t see his 11th birthday.”
Jessica’s post struck a chord with thousands of people. Jessica believes the only way they’ll have a chance to successfully beat this illness is by staying mentally strong together.
“This is him and me, telling him that I will continue to fight for him when he can’t.”
‘Stinky Joe’ is her entire life. The good, the bad, the sweet and the sour, they’re all in this thin, porcelain-skinned 10-year-old little boy who doesn’t want to sleep alone because he’s afraid he won’t wake up. All she can do is continue the battle against the odds for the second time, and inspire other mothers and families who are fighting the same battle to do the same.
“This is him, Drake, Stinky Joe, my whole world.”
“From the moment I found out I was pregnant till future forever, he has been my reason for life. He is my smile, my love, my heartbeat. He is also my tears, my heart ache, my frowns. He is my life.”
“This is him and me, and our world.”
Thousands of people from all over the world wanted to help Drake in his fight for his life so his loved ones launched a crowd funding campaign to raise money for his treatment. A PO Box was also set up so that people could send in toys, cards, t-shirts, and anything to show their support and make it easier for Drake and his mom to battle through the treatments.
The Facebook page Love What Matters shared Jessica’s post where words of encouragement from childhood cancer survivors and their parents poured into the comments section.
“There is life after all the treatments,” one man wrote.
Another mother shared that her son beat cancer when he was only two. Now, he’s ten.
Sharon Henke said her son survived cancer three times and encouraged Drake to stay positive.
Another mother from Finland shared how her daughter survived cancer when she was 5 years old.