When Little League pitcher Jaylon Fong was 8, he was stricken with leukemia. At 12, he was finally declared cancer-free, but just months later he had a severe relapse. Yet during all those years of treatment, which often made him weaker and less coordinated, he still played for his team when he could — and at 13 he was honored as a SportsKid of the Year by Sports Illustrated Kids.
I wasn’t going to let cancer stop me from doing things that I loved, like playing baseball,” Fong, now 18, recalled. “I learned that if there’s something you want to accomplish, it’s not out of reach just because you have cancer. You take it day by day in order to achieve your goal.”
His courage to face down an opponent, whether cancer or the batter at the plate, he credits to the support of his family — his mom and dad, three siblings and dog Chip.
“My family always supported me every step of the way, so I never felt down during my treatments or even now,” he said.
Even now? Yes. Because Fong knows the treatments he underwent — intense chemotherapy, radiation and bone marrow aspiration — can cause serious health challenges at any time throughout his life.
In fact, the side effects of treatment — including stroke, heart attack, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, learning disabilities and more — can affect childhood cancer survivors at any age.
The program is open to those who were diagnosed with cancer before the age of 22 and are two years cancer-free. From monitoring the heart, lungs and vital organs to offering medical, psychological and cognitive services, the program is built around a comprehensive approach to long-term health. If problems do arise, patients have access to cardiologists, pulmonologists, endocrinologists and other subspecialists in every area in which side effects can occur.
“Jaylon is doing very well,” said Armenian, “but nearly one-third of all survivors of childhood cancer will develop some form of severe or life-threatening health conditions."
Fong has an athlete’s gift for focusing on the positive, and doesn’t dwell on that. He’d rather talk about the upside to battling cancer.
“I kind of think that having cancer made me a better person overall,” he said. “It definitely makes you stronger mentally because you know you’ve gone through something very tough. And it also helps me to inspire others who are trying to beat cancer.”
Since the age of 10, he’s traveled the country and given speeches at more than 60 events to help raise funds for City of Hope. He also visits young cancer patients to share his own experiences and help keep their spirits up.
We asked Fong, now a high school senior and an outfielder on the varsity baseball team, if he hopes to turn pro.
“It’s more of a dream than a goal, but we’ll see,” he said. “I’ll keep working toward it for sure.”
This #GivingTuesday, City of Hope is highlighting the amazing work done to help children like Jaylon survive and thrive after cancer. City of Hope is not only proving excellent care during cancer, but is dedicated to continued care for cancer survivors. We have made amazing progress using survivorship research insights to modify treatment plans, helping to reduce side effects — but there’s so much more work to be done.
April 24, 2019 | By
Michael Easterling and Samantha Bonar
City of Hope’s bone marrow transplant program recently performed the procedure on its 15,000th patient, a remarkable milestone considering that the initiative started with just two physicians, three beds and guarded expectations in 1976.
The pediatric patients in treatment at City of Hope are unable to go to Disneyland, so on March 14 Disneyland came to them, at the fourth annual winter ToyFest held on City of Hope’s main campus in Duarte, California.