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JHS Senior & Cancer Survivor Is Helping Other Patients Through Toiletry Drives

Good housekeeping facilitates good health. A clean, sanitary environment is especially important to families caring for a child receiving treatment for cancer. However, maintaining a stock of household products and cleaning supplies can be elusive to caregivers who are busy monitoring and managing their child’s health care. Jace Hurt, who was treated for cancer in 2015-2016, knows the importance of a clean home to minimize risk of infection to the patient.

He also experienced the thoughtfulness of others who provided household products to his family. So, he decided to help other pediatric cancer families in a similar way. Hurt collected household products and distributed them at the University of Louisville Pediatric Oncology Unit last December. He plans another collection drive this fall.

Hurt, a Jeffersontown High School senior, began his journey with cancer in 2015 when he discovered a little knot on the side of his face. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He received chemotherapy and is currently in remission. The diagnosis was a defining moment.

“During the time I was going through chemotherapy I was humbled,” he says.

Teresa Hurt, his mother says he is doing great.

“He did really good with chemotherapy,” she says. “He had rounds December 2015 through March 2016. His chemo was pretty aggressive.”

He received treatments three to four days a week in the outpatient clinic. Some sessions were short, while other sessions would run from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Teresa says it was very stressful.

“It’s an emotional roller coaster,” she says. “You see all these ads, like for St. Jude and you feel compelled to give $10 here, $25 there. You never expect the doctor to say, ‘hey your child has cancer.’ It was hard. I have three other kids. I had a grandbaby on the way. My oldest daughter was living at home too, so there was a ton of stuff going on.”

It was during chemotherapy that Jace noticed a need common to pediatric cancer patient families. He says his mother’s friend had brought them household items such as wipes, toilet paper and more.

“That was helpful to us, more than other types of donations I’ve gotten because my mom didn’t have to stress about going to the store and getting all the stuff that she needed to get,” he says. “Some of it was needed for my treatment in the house like the clean-up wipes to make sure everything is clean and I’m not getting sick while I go through chemo. It was very helpful.”

Teresa echoed Jace’s feelings of gratitude for the household items.

“I had a kid at home getting I-V fluids, and I was trying to learn how to be a nurse,” she says. “I had no clue what I was doing. You got this guilt, you got other kids that you have got to take care of, and I just didn’t have time. So many times, I thought I am so glad I have this. Other people from my work would drop things off and a lot of the things were household things and he remembered that, and he was like, ‘Mom, you know what, that is something the hospital didn’t provide. The volunteers always came through and made sure I had stuff, but nobody was really looking out for the moms. I saw that helped you a lot and I want to see if I can do a fundraiser where I can help the parents of kids that are going through cancer treatments so that they can spend more time with their kids.’”

The toiletry drive is a prescription for the stress caregivers experience.

“The term is caregiver strain,” Teresa says. “It happens to a lot of people. The type of thing where they get overwhelmed. It is a little special in the Oncology Department because you never know how many days your child has, and you don’t want to leave that baby’s side to go home and get toothpaste. Many times, we would see parents come into the Oncology Unit and you could tell they haven’t washed their hair. They probably couldn’t go to the store.”

Last year, Jace set up the items by the nurses’ station in the Oncology Unit for people to take what they needed. The items were available for a week or two. He had intended to give a basket of supplies to at least 50 families, but they didn’t receive enough donations. Jace is planning on conducting the drive again soon.

Teresa says Jace is a better person because of his experience with cancer.

“I’m really proud of him,” she says. “I love him. I see God in him. I am just excited for the man he’s going to become. I look at him and I respect the person that he is. He just wants to help people. I am proud of him. I really am.”

She’s grateful for all the help they have received.

“Even the little gestures people did, it really helped out more than people understand,” she adds. “It put a smile on everybody’s face. We had a ton of community support and I will never be able to pay anybody back for it. I just want to say thank you.”

Since he is a senior, Jace realizes that this would be his last opportunity to operate the drive, but he would love to see the drive implemented as one of Jeffersontown High School’s annual drives. Outside school and work, his other interests include playing basketball, video games and fishing.

He plans on attending college and pursuing a career in engineering. Right now, he is focused on engineering support for pediatric families. He offers encouragement to pediatric patients.

“I would remind the child of the strength they have and of the beauty in their fight because through their fight they are building strength and character,” he says. “And just from battling cancer they have built the strength to get through anything.”

He advises parents of pediatric patients to take time to care for themselves. He shares insight with those who want to provide support to the families.

“My message to anyone wanting to offer support to families affected by pediatric cancer would be to keep in mind that these families put a lot of stress, time and money into maintaining a child’s health,” Jace says. “When you’re looking for the best way to offer support think of some things you could do that would make the family have to worry less about either of these things.”

He also reflects on the lessons learned from his fight with cancer.

“Having cancer taught me to fight,” Jace says. “It showed me that there is hope in the toughest times. My health has taught me to dream bigger than I ever thought was possible before.”

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