Since January, 11-year-old Jon Cook and his family have been through a cancer diagnosis, multiple hospitals stays and a bone marrow transplant.
But they learned Thursday that a recent biopsy for Jon shows no signs of cancer — seven months after he was diagnosed with leukemia, which affects bone marrow and the immune system.
Doctors told the Cook family that Jon’s best chance for a cure would be a bone marrow transplant.
“They thought they found a match when they first started looking, and then it turned out it wasn’t a match,” Jon said. “So they looked again, and then they couldn’t find anybody, so our next option was Mom or Dad.”
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Jon’s dad, Josh Cook, was more closely matched.
“Once I found out it was going to be me, there was this conversation at the hospital about whether or not you were willing to do it,” Josh said. “Obviously, who’s going to say no to that, right? So there wasn’t much consideration involved. It was just, ‘OK. What do we do?’”
After chemotherapy treatments and the transplant, the family said Josh’s bone marrow is doing what it’s supposed to in Jon’s body: making new, healthy blood cells through a process called engraftment.
“It’s mine now,” Jon says of the bone marrow.
Today, Jon is out of the hospital and back home in Swansea with his parents and 2-year-old sister Olivia. But unlike other students on summer vacation, Jon can’t be out in the sun or in crowds because he’s still recovering.
While he admits he may not have always liked school, he said he’s looking forward to going back.
“Very much,” Jon said.
His mom, Amanda Cook, says Jon’s immune system is still “severely compromised,” so he won’t be able to return to Wolf Branch Middle School for a while.
“It’ll be like he’s a newborn baby,” Amanda said in an interview before Jon left the hospital. But she says Jon is ready to get into the sixth-grade classroom.
“He misses school,” Amanda said. “He misses his friends. He just misses normalcy, you know?”
At Wolf Branch, fifth-grade teacher Summer Elbe says they miss Jon, too.
“Every single day, someone would bring up something about him or ask about him,” Summer said of her class.
Summer was one of Jon’s teachers last school year.
Every single day, someone would bring up something about him or ask about him.
Summer Elbe, Wolf Branch Middle School teacher, on student Jon Cook
She said she visited him in the hospital after his bone marrow transplant. When a nurse came in to talk to Jon about the status of his immune system, Summer remembers Jon asking, “Is there anything I can do?”
“I thought, ‘That’s the Jon that I know,’” she said. “He was just wanting to do anything that he could to get his numbers up to where they need to be.”
Summer said she wanted to do something for Jon and his family. She decided to sell T-shirts to help them with the medical bills they face, which Jon thinks is “really cool.”
“Once I found out, I was pretty excited,” Jon said.
The shirts feature the phrases “Wolf Branch Fights with Jon” and “Fight like a Jedi Jon,” referencing his favorite film series “Star Wars.”
The T-shirts are available online until Sunday through Winning Streak in Dupo, she said. They range from $10 to $14 and come in youth and adult sizes. The Cook family will get $3 from every shirt sold.
“Really, I just wanted to show how many people are behind him in his journey,” Summer said of the T-shirt sales.
To purchase a shirt, visit fightlikeajediforjon.itemorder.com. They will be ready about two weeks after the sale ends, and Summer will distribute them.
Another way to donate to the Cooks is through a GoFundMe campaign set up at gofundme.com/RageJon.