Six weeks ago, Jett Dow was a healthy, active teen excited to finish his freshman year of high school and embark on a year-end trip to Disneyland.
Now the 13-year-old is fighting for his life after a tennis ball-sized tumor was removed from his brain while on vacation with his grandmother thousands of miles from home.
The tumor was so rare that further research was needed because doctors still don’t know what type it is.
Jett’s vision hasn’t returned yet after the tumor presses on his optic nerves.
His mother Sam has put her entire life and career on hold to focus on caring for Jett, who will begin daily radiation therapy for five weeks in just a few days.
She knows all too well that one in five children with a brain tumor does not survive more than five years after diagnosis.
There are also fears that the tumor will grow back.
Sam Dow and her son Jett (pictured visiting Disneyland Hong Kong in 2019) have been forced to postpone their upcoming vacation in the US
The NSW Central Coast teen (pictured after his surgery) spent the past five weeks in hospital after a rare tumor was removed from his brain
“We have no idea if Jett will still be alive at Christmas, let alone his birthday next year,” Ms Dow told the Daily Mail Australia.
“Just five weeks ago, he was still full of life and going to school camps, so it was a huge shock.
“We have to live as if tomorrow is the last day.”
Ms Dow said the loss of vision was “the most disturbing thing for him” and prays that the tumor does not return so that the optic nerves can recover and vision can be restored.
“Jett is a resilient kid, but he gets lonely and upset at the thought of his friends planning year-end activities without him,” she said.
A much-anticipated five-week vacation to the US that had been planned for months has been postponed as Jett undergoes treatment.
The Disney-obsessed mother and son planned to visit their favorite theme parks.
Single mom Sam (left) doesn’t know if her son Jett (right) will make his 14th birthday
Sam Dow made the frantic flight from the NSW Central Coast to Townsville after his health deteriorated while vacationing with his grandmother in Mackay
Sam Dow has put her life and career on hold as son Jett takes on the fight of his life
“We’ve been a great duo for 10 years and have had great adventures around the world,” said Ms. Dow.
“We’ve been to all Disneyland and Disney World except Paris.
“I promised we’d go to Disneyland as soon as this is all over.”
Jett has complained of headaches and blurred vision for the past 12 months, but the doctors found nothing wrong.
His health went downhill fast on September 30 when he suddenly lost his sight while traveling with his grandmother to Mackay in central Queensland to visit his uncle.
He was flown 400 km north to Townsville for urgent surgery after an MRI revealed a large tumor the size of a tennis ball and a cyst in the back of his head.
His mother made the frantic flight to be with her son before surgeons removed the tumor on Oct. 4.
Jett, pictured with his mother Sam and dog Paddington, starts daily radiation this week
The tumor in Jett’s brain was the size of a large tennis ball. Pictured is the MRI scan
Jett spent several weeks in intensive care in Townsville before being transferred to Queensland Children’s Hospital in Brisbane and then to John Hunter Hospital closer to home.
Last Thursday he was finally allowed to go home, in the run-up to a daily course of radiation, which starts next week.
“The past five weeks have been the saddest of my life,” said Ms. Dow.
Friends, former colleagues and complete strangers have gathered around her with various fundraisers.
Ms. Dow, a former primary school teacher, started her own business as a child behaviorist a year ago, but has now had to put that aside.
“I’ve always admired the way she’s a fierce single mom. She never settles for anything but the best for her boy,” friend Helen Finlay wrote on a… online fundraiser.
Jett’s vision hasn’t returned yet after the tumor presses on his optic nerves. He is pictured with dog Paddington and mother Sam Dow
‘Hold on and an incredibly smart businesswoman who makes bold choices so that she and her son can have the very best life.
“Now it’s time for Sam to focus her struggle and energy solely on her beautiful boy.”
Ms. Dow was initially reluctant to ask for help, but has since gratefully accepted the help, which will pay for her mortgage for the next 12 months.
“I’ve never asked for help in my life,” said Mrs. Dow.
“There are no words to describe what it means, especially when I felt most alone sitting at Jett’s bedside.”
“It was a great comfort that people care about us and knowing that I can keep my new house that we built a year ago is a gift.”
Jett Dow was a happy and healthy teenager five weeks ago before things took a turn for the worse