Local boy Jackson Noveroske, age 13 of Milford was recently diagnosed with ALCL lymphoma, a rare form of childhood cancer.
After his diagnosis, his family and friends rallied around him. His aunt, Morgan Hansen, and his soccer coach Craig Bender have taken the lead on helping put together a fundraiser/support group for him called Action For Jackson.
Hansen still remembers when her nephew was diagnosed and what led up to the realization that he had cancer.
A student in eighth grade at Junction City Middle School, Noveroske had always been athletic and outdoorsy. He enjoys sports and plays soccer for the local Danger Futbol Club.
“The family is very, very big into soccer,” Hansen said.
So it came as a shock when Noveroske began sleeping all the time. He was exhausted, his aunt said, and no longer had the energy to run around and do things that he used to enjoy so much. His interest in fishing, hunting, soccer, spending time with his animals — his dog, his cat and two pet turtles — and similar outdoor activities went away replaced by constant exhaustion.
“If he could be outside all the time, he would be outside,” Hansen said.
But Noveroske spent last week sick with a fever.
“It got to where pretty much it was just complete exhaustion,” Hansen said. “A child who was used to being outside, running from sunup to sundown was pretty much just on the couch sleeping nonstop."
The family took Noveroske for medical care where doctors ruled out COVID-19, flu and strep throat.
His fevers came and went and his lymph nodes swelled up, with the ones in his neck becoming clearly visible.
This is one symptom that tipped medical professionals off that Noveroske might have cancer.
His family took him to the hospital for a high fever of 104 last Saturday once again and doctors scanned him. They found Noveroske's lymph nodes were full of cancer.
He was transported via ambulance to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City to receive further treatment and to learn what specific kind of cancer Noveroske had. Tests would reveal that he had a rare form of non-hodgkin lymphoma called ALCL lymphoma.
Hansen said his mother, Hedy, and his father, William, have been by his side throughout this ordeal, providing all the support they can.
“They have not left him,” she said.
Hansen said they hoped to have him home and well sooner than later, out of the hospital bed he’s now stuck in and not exactly loving it.
“They are hopeful to get him treated and good and healthy and back home and back to what he loves,” she said. “But as far as when we found out the diagnosis, we were heartbroken. We’re a very close-knit family.”
They have maintained that connection via texts and phone calls while Noveroske has been in the hospital away from his Milford area home.
Family members enjoy calls over Facetime with Noveroske when he feels up to it.
“He is very weak and very tired,” Hansen said. “But he misses his cousins, he misses his brother, he misses grandma, he misses his grandpa."
It has been a learning experience that has taught her the value of family and community closeness.
“No matter what you’re going through, family will be there for you,” she said. "We know we’re in a great community, but until you’re going through something like this, it’s pretty amazing what people will do to help you out.”
It has renewed her understanding of the value of sticking together.
“You’ve got to learn to lean on one another and sometimes that community help is needed,” Hansen said. “You don’t want to bother those other people, but it’s just amazing what they will do for you when you’re in need."
Hansen has taken over fielding comments and offers of support from people outside the family so Noveroske’s parents can concentrate fully on taking care of their sick child.
“It was pretty rough waiting and finding out what he had,” Hansen said. “But we’re very hopeful he is going to fight this and he is going to win this. We just have to have our faith and belief that there’s a higher power that’s going to help us through this — and with family and friends. The amazing output of support and prayers that we’ve gotten from the community has been unbelievable.”
She said their son’s fundraiser on GoFundMe has "blown up” with support from community members.
Hansen said the group had printed custom t-shirts with a soccer-themed slogan, “kicking cancer is our goal” with Noveroske’s approval.
His brother, John, is on the JCHS Blue Jays soccer team and the team has reached out in support as well.
The need of Noveroske’s friends to help him has overwhelmed the family.
Hansen said when his mother heard of the community’s outpouring of support for her son during his struggle with cancer, she burst into tears.
“She’s so grateful,” Hansen said. “if it’s prayers, if it’s buying shirts, if it’s donating, if it’s sending a text and sending the love messages, it just means so much."
There are no events planned yet because Noveroske's set diagnosis only arrived Nov. 23 — his fight has only just begun — but its possible there will be further efforts to generate support for the family.
Hansen said there had been talk of a fundraising dinner once COVID-19 has settled down. Teammates with Danger FC have begun selling face masks with green ribbons on them as a fundraiser.
“This whole last week has just felt like a whirlwind,” Hansen said. “He has a long road of chemo — they have started it — and there will be many trips back and forth, back between Kansas City, Missouri and here. He will undergo about five days of chemo. Then he'll get to come home for three weeks and then he has to go back for a week.”
This pattern will continue for about 16 weeks while Noveroske endures the treatment for his cancer.
Hansen is determined that this will not break him or the family.
“I know that Jackson is a very strong young man and he has a very strong family and friends and a community that’s backing him up,” she said. “Failure is not an option and he will beat this."