Until 2019 Jazmon was a healthy teenager who loved sports and being the life of the party, always dancing at family gatherings.
That October during a P.E. class he felt a tremor in his leg, had a seizure and passed out. His coach was there to catch him, and from that frightening moment on, Jazmon and his family began a journey that has been filled with surgeries, radiation and trips to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.
Jazmon was diagnosed with a rare, high-grade glioma brain tumor, and in late 2019 doctors at St. Jude were able to remove it. The removal left Jazmon, now 15, with some deficits, most notably an uneven gait. His mom, Kimberly, recalls that just before surgery their neurosurgeon explained the likelihood of deficits. “I grabbed his hand and said, ‘We choose life. Whatever it is we will deal with it, but we need him here.’”
After surgery the right side of Jazmon’s body was paralyzed, as the tumor was in the part of his brain responsible for motor skills. After that surgery and during his initial treatment, Jazmon and his parents, Kimberly and Jazmon Sr., stayed at the Ronald McDonald House, but his younger sisters, Jozlyn and Journee, stayed in Baton Rouge with extended family.
“It was super hard, as we are a very close-knit family,” Kimberly says. She worked with her daughters’ school and had them brought to Memphis where they became a part of their brother’s healing process. “The first night his sisters came, Jazmon moved his right foot.”
They stayed in Memphis for about twelve weeks of radiation and regularly travel back for repeat scans. “Nobody wants their child to have any type of cancer, but if you’ve got to be there, St. Jude is the place you want to be.”
Fortunately, Jazmon is able to do physical and occupational therapy closer to home at the St. Jude Affiliate Clinic at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health. Therapy has allowed him to regain some movement and strength in his right leg’s muscles, which had atrophied during recovery. “Jazmon’s not the type of kid who complains,” Kimberly says. “Even when he was being poked and prodded with MRIs and CT scans one after the next, he never complained. He is so resilient and keeps moving forward.”
At Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health. Jazmon works with physical therapist Caroline R. Denison, PT, DPT, who nominated him for the Geaux Hero program, in which a pediatric patient is invited to an LSU football home game and recognized for their strength in the face of health challenges. Jazmon pushes himself in therapy in the hopes of one day being able to return to playing the sports he loves.
“He always comes to therapy appointments with a smile on this face and never turns down an opportunity to work hard,” Caroline says. “Jazmon is an incredible example of what it means to live life to the fullest, smiling in the face of adversity, and always trusting that God’s plan is far greater than our own.”
Until March 2021 Jazmon’s scans remained clear, but his oncologist found an area of concern and the cancer is back. The family is taking things day by day, appointment by appointment and continuing to trust God along the way.
Jazmon continues to go to school – he is a sophomore, and although he can’t run like he used to, he stays as active as he can, shooting hoops in the driveway and tossing the football around with his dad and cousins. He also loves video games and math.
“We learn from him,” Kimberly says. “I’ve taken so much from him, learning how to be strong and just go with the flow, appreciate the things you can change, and the things that you can’t change you ask God to help you be mentally strong for.”
As one of only eight St. Jude Affiliate Clinics in the U.S., Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health extends the cutting-edge power and compassionate care of the world-renowned St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to the people of Louisiana and beyond. Learn more here.