“When the doctor came in and said, ‘Mrs. Anderson, Jade has got cancer and she could die,’ that was like, I mean, I just about hit the floor,” mother says.
“JMS loves Jado” — Students and staff at Jasper Middle School rally behind Jade Anderson, a student recently diagnosed with osteosarcoma.
Mid afternoon last Monday, 13-year-old Jade Anderson, known as “Jado” by her friends and family, was tucked under the covers at her Jasper home watching television.
While the rest of her friends were at school that day, she had spent the afternoon getting blood tests at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta clinic in Kennesaw. That’s because three weeks ago, the very first day of her spring break this April, Jade was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a malignant bone tumor that typically develops near the knee or shoulder during the rapid stage of growth in adolescents.
“Today’s the first time she’s ever thrown up from her chemo,” her mother Nancy said. “Other than that she’s doing okay so far, but we’re only at the beginning of this.”
Jade, a seventh grader at JMS, hasn’t been to school since April 12. Her family took her to the doctor after she started complaining about pain in her knee.
“It all started after she went to St. Simons for a field trip with the school, and a wave knocked her down, and that’s how we found out about it,” Nancy said. “Before that there were things that happened, but we didn’t know they were because of the cancer. She started losing weight, and I told her, ‘That’s good baby,’ but we found out that’s a side effect. She’s lost 40 pounds now.”
After the field trip, Jade first went to her pediatrician, who sent her to an orthopedic doctor who then sent her to Ellijay for an MRI.
“They thought it was like a pulled ligament or tendon at first and sent us to the orthopedic doctor,” Nancy said. “From there they started acting kind of strange, because I guess they didn’t want to scare us with what was going on with Jade. When the doctor came in and said, ‘Mrs. Anderson, Jade has got cancer and she could die,’ that was like, I mean, I just about hit the floor when they told me that. I was in shock. Jade’s father, Doug, was in Arkansas when she was diagnosed, so I had to call him home.”
It was April 19 when Jade received her diagnosis. She has been prescribed 10 to 12 weeks of chemotherapy treatment, which she will receive at Scottish Rite in Atlanta. This will be followed by a surgery to remove the affected bone near her knee.
“It’s from here to here,” Jade said, pointing out an area about six inches above and below her kneecap that will be surgically removed and replaced with either steel or titanium rods. “That’s how much bone they are going to have to cut off.”
Nancy said it is possible her daughter’s kneecap will have to be replaced as well, and she may have to have a blood transfusion.
Jade will then have to undergo another surgery on her lungs because sarcomas have popped up there as well.
“They want to go in and do surgery, because they found a few spots in there,” she said. “It’s sarcomas in her lungs, and they say the chemo should kill it, but even if it does they still want to go in to be sure.”
All totaled, Jade is expected to be out of school for six to eight months.
Nancy, a longtime Speed Burger employee who is staying at home full time with her daughter, said the family is taking extra precautions now, making sure Jade doesn’t get sick or fall and break her knee.
“We have to make sure no one’s coming around sick or anything,” she said. “If she gets sick, we have to go to Scottish Rite. They haven’t said anything about the cancer spreading, but the worst thing she could do is break it, because then it would be a 90-percent chance that she would have to have an amputation, so we have to be careful there, too.”
Jade had her first round of chemotherapy treatments on April 30 and May 1, and while Nancy said everything is going okay so far, she is preparing for more serious side effects, including hair loss and a weakened immune system.
“She’s doing okay, but she tires more easily now,” Nancy said. “They said it would take about seven to 10 days for her immune system to shut down with the chemo treatment.”
Jade said that while things are not “too bad yet,” the chemo is already affecting her, and she misses being at school. Jade now has to walk on crutches or use a wheelchair when she feels weak.
“After chemo and everything, I just feel tired,” Jade said, “but when the chemo is over, in two days I feel fine. I don’t eat seafood anymore, though. Just the smell makes me bad sick. Mom was cooking deer burgers last night, and I had to go to my room.
“But I miss being at school,” Jade added. She is described as a happy, sweet girl by everyone who knows her. “It gets boring at home. I’m always in touch with my friends. They’re all giving me support, and they’re all shocked. I think one counselor is going to classes going to school talking about it.”
At Jade’s school, several people have organized a t-shirt and bracelet fundraiser for the family.
JMS employee Carol Stancil, who is also heading up the JMS Relay for Life team, said the school is behind Jade 100 percent.
“This came to me because I’m the team captain for Relay,” Stancil said. “We have refocused our energy and effort for Relay, because she is in the midst of her battle. She’s our new drive and motivation.”
Pickens Relay for Life is this Saturday at Lee Newton Park. The American Cancer Society event celebrates the lives of people who have battled cancer, and fights back by raising money for research and local cancer programs. Stancil said her team will have a banner that says “Relaying for Jado” at the event.
Beyond the Relay, Stancil says there have been 500 silicone bracelets ordered that students will be able to purchase for $2 each. The bracelets say, “JMS loves Jado.”
T-shirts for Jade will also be sold by pre-order for the next two weeks at Speed Burger in Jasper, where Nancy has worked for the last 12 years. Proceeds from shirt and bracelet sales will go directly to the Anderson family.
“We know the family is going to need money as time goes along,” Stancil said. “We are really trying to do something for them. The adults at the school want to help. We are just all sitting around counting our own blessings.”
Hill City Elementary, where Jade attended school from kindergarten to fifth grade, is taking part in the fight as well. “After we heard the news, we said whatever JMS is doing Hill City wants to be a part of,” said Vice Principal Joeta Youngblood. “We are helping with the shirts and the bracelets, and we are in the tentative stages of planning other things. The staff wants to be actively involved as a school family, because while she doesn’t go here anymore, she’ll always be a part of our school family.”
Nancy said their neighbors have been bringing by little gifts for Jade, too, and a church held a special service for her a few weekends ago.
“Our friend Lamar brings her stuff that she said she wants to eat,” she said. “She wanted chocolate covered strawberries and he brought those. One of my other neighbors brought her magazines and books. Really, we’re okay right now, but in the long run that could be a totally different story.”
Nancy said she and her husband are trying to adjust to a new normal, and while her manager told her she can come back to work whenever she needs for “gas money to get her down there and back,” Jade wants her mom to stay home.
“Doug told me Jade don’t want me to go anywhere,” she said. “Doug can do it, but she’d prefer me. Now he’s asking, ‘Why does she want you all the time now?’ I guess he kind of feels left out, but it’s kind of natural, I guess, to want your mama. I told him, when she’s in the wheelchair, she don’t want mama, she wants you.
“But she’s a very strong girl,” Nancy said. “She’s stronger than me and her dad, by all means. Me and Doug are the ones that break down and she doesn’t understand why. I tell her, well, there’s a reason. You’re our baby. You’re our only child. We’re just figuring all this out as we go along.”