I'm thrilled to serve as a media partner for the St. Jude Give thanks. Walk. at Patriot Place. Though St. Jude is located in Memphis, TN, children nationwide benefit from their treatment and research. On November 22, St. Jude supporters in 65+ U.S. cities will participate in the walk to help St. Jude's childhood cancer work. Registration for this family-friend event is free -- so go register (then show your support with a donation or fundraising on your own)! Meanwhile, I wanted to share an incredible story with you.
I had the opportunity to interview Jason Mortimer about his involvement with St. Jude via his son Brady. Trust me, you will find yourself tearful and inspired. Read on, and please consider donating to or joining Jason's team.
Christine: Jason, thanks for taking the time to share your story. Can you tell me a little about your son Brady?
Jason: Brady was born on June 23, 2009 in Manhattan, KS. He was healthy and happy; it was one of the most beautiful days of my life. Being from New England and a HUGE Patriots fans, it was a no brainer to name our son Brady after Tom Brady!
As a toddler (2 years, 9 months), Brady experienced headaches, eye pain, and vomiting. I took him to his primary care physician and she said it was just a virus. I became anxious as the symptoms persisted so I grew VERY persistent and demanded a CT scan. The PCP finally gave in and found a massive tumor in Brady's brain. We immediately headed to Children's Mercy in Kansas City and two days later Brady underwent a risky 8-hour brain surgery. Brady made it through the surgery in good spirits (he consumed about 15 chocolate milks and 4 chicken legs!) but we soon found out he had cancer, with less than a 20% chance of survival.
Christine: At the time of Brady's diagnosis, you were stationed in Kentucky. How did you end up at St. Jude?
Jason: After serving in the U.S. Army and being deployed to Kuwait and the original invasion of Iraq, we were stationed at Ft. Riley, Kansas. We had heard of St. Jude but really didn't think of it as an option until our doctor in Kansas gave us NO hope. We decided to give our child a fighting chance at a place that offered so much love -- and most of all HOPE!
Christine: Your experience at St. Jude was bittersweet; can you tell me more about what happened there?
Jason: We contacted St. Jude's in Memphis, TN and were accepted. We arrived about 3 weeks after Brady's surgery. An MRI revealed that 6 tumors had grown in his brain and spine. He started undergoing regular chemotherapy and despite all of the challenges -- hair loss, change in skin color, rashes, mouth soars, pain while urinating, vomiting, allergic reactions, poor sleep -- Brady never lost is his laugh, smile, 3-year-old screams, sense of humor, silliness, and awesome personality. If anything, his will to live was growing! He spent his days at St. Jude playing and making new friends, even while inpatient receiving chemo. He especially loved jamming at the juke box! St. Jude always had parties and events for the children to boost their morale. He got to meet some professional athletes, pop singer Jordan Sparks, and even our former president Bill Clinton!
Sadly though, despite dedicated treatment, Brady's cancer spread all through his brain and spine. He lived just 3 short days after the MRI results. He was playing outside of St. Jude's Target house 12 hours before he passed, still full of energy!
Christine: Your family still lives in Kansas. Why do you feel compelled to travel such a long way to participate in the St. Jude Give thanks. Walk. at Patriot Place?
Jason: My home state is Maine and when I heard that the wallk was going to take place in Massachusetts, I jumped at the opportunity to get my New England family involved and spread the word about St. Jude and make people aware that childhood cancer is a real thing! I also feel that Brady's story needs to be out there because ultimately, we need to raise research dollars to find cures so kids can live to see another day, unlike Brady. We never got the opportunity to potty train Brady, walk him to preschool, help him learn his ABC's. Losing a child is hard and we need to raise money so a cure or more effective treatment is found. That is one of the reasons why we decided to donate Brady's whole brain to research...to help save another child in the future. We'd like to see St. Jude shut down someday because a cure has been found!
Christine: Jason, you and your family are amazing and embody the spirit of giving with this walk. Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Jason: St. Jude became home -- a family to us. There was so many other families there with the same struggle and it was good to know that we weren't alone in this journey. We partcipate in EVERYTHING possible we can for the hospital. We were on the radio during the radiothon and in the 30 minutes we talked about Brady we raised $3,000 and a total of $58,000 for a 2-day event! It soothes the heart and fullfills the whole family when we partake in such important events. If it wasn't for generous people -- and people becoming partners in hope -- the hospital wouldn't be free and therefore my son's treatment may not have been possible.
We also created the Brady Mortimer Fund, through which we host a yearly toy drive and balloon launch on Brady's birthday to benefit kids at St. Jude. These acts fill our hearts and keep Brady's memory alive. We're so grateful to Dr. Kevin Ginn, Dr. Karen Wright, and the whole St. Jude team for their efforts. We know Brady is jamming out at the juke box -- cancer free -- in heaven.
How can you not be inspired by Brady's bravery and Jason's strength and generous heart? Please consider donating to or joining Brady's team or joining the walk on November 22 in Foxborough and raising funds for St. Jude on your own. And thank you again, Jason, for sharing your family's story.