Hampton boy battles leukemia

| 09 Aug 2017 | 06:32

By Laurie Gordon
— This past May, then 10-year-old Jack Jacinto started complaining about one too many odd aches and pains. His legs had hurt him and then he developed a strange ache in his shoulders.
“He'd say, 'I'm feeling weak or I'm so tired,” his mother, Amy Jacinto said.
In a strange twist of fate, Jack had just had a battery of blood tests done in March when he'd had headaches. The tests came back clean. The Jacintos thought these new symptoms were related to Lyme D=disease and took him to the pediatrician.
“Lyme is pretty prevalent around here, so that's what we thought it was,” Jack's father, Luis Jacinto, said.
The day after the tests was Wednesday, May 17: a day the family will never forget.
“We were at a baseball game and the pediatrician called,” Amy Jacinto said. “He said that Jack's labs were 'alarmingly abnormal.'”
They were so alarming that the pediatrician had already been in touch with the oncology department at Morristown Memorial Hospital, and the Jacinto family was to get there as soon as possible the next morning. When they did, Jack was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and admitted to the hospital.
When the oncologist told Jack he had leukemia, which is a type of cancer, Jack said over and over "Oh my God I'm gonna die, I'm gonna die."
The news came as a complete shock to family and friends. Jack's best friend, Clayton Doyle, took the news pretty hard.
“I was really worried about him and upset that he was sick,” Doyle said.
Clayton's mother, Heather, and her husband, Tim, are friends with the Jacintos, and since the Jacintos don't have Facebook, took it upon themselves to create “Jack's Newsline” on Facebook to keep family, friends and those who know Jack informed.
That first round of chemotherapy was a frightening one as Jack ended up in the ICU and was put on a ventilator. For his parents, and sister, Lily, that was a very scary time.
Jack said, “I went to the ICU and went to sleep for nine days and woke up on Father's Day.”
Jack finally stabilized and was allowed to come home for a little while only to have to return to the hospital for his second round of chemo. This one went better and there was no visit to the ICU.
Down at Morristown Memorial, Jack has a laptop and has become so involved in the activities they have for children there that he's been deputized and was even given a name tag that reads “Child Life Assistant.”
After the second round of chemo, Jack was released just in time to celebrate his 11th birthday, on August 4th, at home and he'll be home until the 14th, when he's back to Morristown for round three of chemo. As part of the celebration, Jack got to hang out with his buddy Clayton and play some basketball and wiffle ball.
“I played really well at wiffle ball,” Jack said. “Being on chemo is like being on steroids.”
There's another positive side effect. While Jack's sister was filled with mosquito bites after the game, the bugs stayed clear of Jack. “They don't like my blood,” he said.
The Doyle family made bracelets on line and have been selling them to help the Jacinto family with the medical expenses. There have also been several fundraisers and on August 27th, Full Moon Cycles, on Route 206 in Newton, will stage a motorcycle ride with kickstands going up at 11 am. There will be food and a raffle and proceeds will help the Jacinto family. Information can be found on Full Moon Cycles Facebook Page.
Alex Polizzo lives in Hoboken now but grew up being neighbors with Jack. On October 1st, she'll be running the Wine Glass Marathon, in Corning New York, to support Jack.
“I used to occasionally babysit Jack and his sister Lily and on my runs, I would often see Jack playing outside.” Polizzo said. “I always loved playing sports, and when college ended, I took up running and began participating in road races. Last year I ran my first marathon in San Francisco and when Jack was diagnosed in May, I knew I wanted to run another one to support him.” Her fundraising page can be found at: www.youcaring.com/jackjacinto-872059
“We never asked people for help, they've just been so nice and done things for us," Amy Jacinto said.
The community has been of great support and since Jack loves the Sussex County Miners baseball team, two of the players and the team's mascot visited him in the hospital. While he's in the hospital, he's able to follow his favorite major league player, the Yankees Aaron Judge, on TV, too.
Come fall, not only will Jack not miss school, he'll actually be there. Well, sort of.
Thanks to the Valerie Fund's VGO, Jack will be an interactive part of his classroom through a robot. His face will actually pop up no the robot's screen and he will be able to control it, allowing him to even go to lunch and recess with his friends at the McKeown Elementary School. Unlike Skype, Jack can manipulate the robot's position. He can turn and move the robot to simulate an actual classroom experience while his face is seen on the screen by the teacher and classmates.
Lily Jacinto said, “I miss him when he's in the hospital and love it when he comes home.”
And then there's Clayton. His friendship with Jack began at a block party just before the boys entered first grade and has been going strong ever since.
“I try to visit him when he's in the hospital as much as I can,” he said. “And when he's home, I'm with him as much as I can be... after all, he's my best friend.”
Jack's grandmother, Dottie Kerrick, said, “One of his parents has stayed with him every single night he's been in the hospital and that's really something great.” And of Jack, she said, “You're brave, Jack, and we're so glad we caught this right away.”
“We expect that if things go as planned he'll be done with the chemo at the end of November,” Luis Jacinto said.
For Jack, this means the port will be taken out of his body and he will be able to swim.
“I can put my feet in the water now, but I can't wait to actually be able to go swimming again,” he said. To other kids who learn that they have cancer, Jack said, “I'd just tell them that it's nothing to worry about. The hospital isn't scary anymore.”