Published: Friday, October 21, 2011
By Caitlin Fertal
Just prior to four months ago, 5-year-old Jasmine Williams was as healthy as could be.
Her parents Dixie and Michael Williams of Chardon never had to worry about her getting sick; she was even described as “freakishly healthy.”
It was her 8-year-old brother Anthony who typically caught colds — but that all changed in July.
Jasmine was taken to the hospital when her mom discovered that she may have had an abscessed tooth. Upon examination, doctors told the family to head to University Hospitals Rainbow Babies Children’s Hospital right away.
Cancer was the diagnosis.
Originally, doctors thought that the then 4-year-old had rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer that affects connective tissues such as muscle, fat, membranes that line the joints or blood vessels.
While a devastating diagnosis, it was only about to get worse.
The family soon was told that Jasmine actually had a rare, more aggressive form of cancer — osteosarcoma.
While osteosarcoma itself is the most common type of cancer that starts in the bone, the exact type that Jasmine has is something that her doctors are not familiar with, Dixie Williams said.
Typically this cancer affects the arm or leg bones, however, for Jasmine it started near her jaw, which can lead to a less favorable outcome, according to The American Cancer Society.
Jasmine has already undergone an extensive, 13-hour surgery to remove a large tumor from her jaw area, as well as daily chemotherapy treatment.
Her mother explained the surgery:
“(They) removed all of her baby and adult teeth in the left upper jaw, all the bone is gone; the cheek bone is gone, part of the orbit of her eye is gone — and part of her nasal on the left side, the whole left roof or her mouth and everything. They took a graft and cut from her knee to her hip and reconstructed that side of her face with all soft tissue because she’s still growing.”
She is currently receiving three different types of chemotherapy, which kill every rapidly growing cell in the body. This type of treatment has unpleasant side effects, but aggressively goes after cancer cells.
Due to the treatments, only the fine, baby hair that lines Jasmine’s head remains, which her mother said was probably the hardest part for the little girl.
“She had really long hair that she loved.”
The therapy also makes Jasmine nauseous and at times, she completely loses her appetite. She has a feeding tube that her parents will use when she refuses to eat, her mother said.
“It enables us to give her the nutrients and stuff that she needs when she won’t eat because there are times when she won’t,” she said. “Originally they put it in because of the procedure, she had so much swelling and they had done so much work they didn’t want to jeopardize their grafts with all the sutures.”
The family spends about 20 days per month in the hospital in order for Jasmine to keep up with all of her chemotherapy as well as the eight to 10 different prescriptions she needs.
As can be imagined, the family’s medical expenses have totalled close to $750,000 so far.
Dixie left her job as at University Hospitals Geauga Medical Center temporarily in the very beginning, and Michael stopped work completely in order to care for their daughter.
Anthony was pulled out of school and now often learns in between happenings at the hospital.
The first week in November she will undergo additional cat scans. If no regrowth is found, then they will continue the schedule of chemotherapy that Jasmine is currently on. The same process will occur in February, and if there is still no regrowth, Jasmine will be considered in remission.
“But the chemo — there’s always a risk of developing another type of cancer like leukemia,” Dixie Williams said. “It’s cancer, so it’s never over.”
A concern for the family is that the cancer could easily spread or metastasize to other organs or bone tissue.
“I think the hardest thing for us is that there’s no statistics. There’s no set way to treat it because they’ve never seen it before,” Dixie Williams said. “It’s something we just take day by day because the overall picture is just too much to bare.”
A family member partnered with the fund raising website GiveForward in an effort to help alleviate the financial burden on the Williams family.
To see pictures of Jasmine, or to donate, visit www.giveforward.com/jasminesjourney.