By Stephanie Dolan
Sometimes, some children have to grow up too fast.
Sometimes, circumstances require a child to deal with a situation even many adults are ill equipped to handle. Such was the case for 11-year-old James Egold. The St. Barnabas fourth-grader was diagnosed with bone cancer less than a year ago.
“He was diagnosed in May of last year,” said his father, Tom. “It was in his fibula. He had pre-surgery chemo, surgery to remove the tumor and chemo after the surgery.”
James said that was sad and scared at the time of the diagnosis.
“We initially thought he had growing pains,” Tom said.
James’ pediatrician ordered an x-ray, discovering the tumor. After additional testing, the doctor diagnosed James with bone cancer.
In addition to the cancer, James has pulmonary valve atresia and only one working kidney, both of which were concerns when considering the side effects of chemo.
James was most concerned about losing his hair.
“The doctor was telling us about the side effects of chemotherapy,” Tom said. “Then he mentioned that James was going to lose his hair. All of these other things, and he was most upset about the hair loss.”
Tom told James that, “unlike your father, you had a very good head of hair.”
“That was very upsetting for him,” Tom said.
James is now looking forward to his hair growing back, and said he’s already noticing a bit of slight growth on his scalp.
“He should have a full head of hair again in six months to a year,” Tom said.
However, it wasn’t just the physical stressors that played a part in a tough way to go for James.
“A typical week would mean that he’d have to go to Riley for labs,” Tom said. “We’d check in on a Thursday, and he’d be discharged sometime on a Monday afternoon. With that you can see a lot of school was missed.”
Now, James is on his own individual plan that allows him to work at his own pace. He is still on track to move ahead to the next grade along with his classmates.
In addition, as James’ treatment was ending, a happy surprise made its way into his life.
James is a big fan of Monster Jam and monster truck rallies. Monster Jam, in conjunction with Love Your Melon – an apparel brand dedicated to producing a hat for every child battling cancer – completed a monster truck themed bedroom makeover and provided a special VIP experience for James, his family and friends at Lucas Oil Stadium on Feb. 9 and 10.
Arriving on a party bus with his family and several of his closest friends, James was able to meet the driver of Max-D (Maximum Destruction) Tom Meents, while enjoying a true behind-the-scenes experience.
“We had a box, we had a police escort and about 30 people on the bus,” Tom said.
“Monster Jam has a long relationship with the Indianapolis community and giving back in unique ways,” said Lisa Finch, publicist for Monster Jam. “This is the first time we were able to connect with a family for a room makeover and it exceeded our expectations with all the support we received from Home Depot, along with Purdue’s Love Your Melon crew.
“From the first time I met James, I knew he was the perfect candidate. He gave us full reign to change anything and only asked for a few of his favorite things to remain in his room: the St. Barnabas framed jersey signed by his teammates, the signed Roncalli football helmet and his three completed Star Wars Lego figures. James’ biggest wish was a full-size loft bed.
“When I asked him if he was concerned about climbing to get in and out every day, he shrugged it off and said he was a great climber. His strength and determination shown through in so many ways. We are grateful to have met James, spend some memorable time with him and make his dream bedroom makeover come true.”
“It was a real gift,” James said of his new room and the VIP Monster Jam experience.
“When you go through something like this, it’s difficult,” Tom said. “But there’s always a nice surprise here and there around the corner. It was a nice celebration for James, but also for me too, and his extended family. It meant a lot to me to be able to walk him out of that hospital on Monday after nine months of a lot of challenges and be able to just enjoy it.
“He had a blast. It was really great. And the enthusiasm from the community at large was really great. He had a blast with his family, his friends – it was really terrific.”
5 questions with James Egold:
What’s your favorite food?
Pop-Tarts, cottage cheese, bananas and Hershey bars
What’s your favorite subject in school?
What’s your favorite sport to play?
What’s your favorite sport to watch?
What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?
That I played tackle football, that I’ve been in a monster truck and I’ve been on a monster truck track.