By Jessica Gies
While a 10-year-old boy from Prince Albert bravely battles brain cancer, family members are working to see that expenses are the least of his mother’s concerns.
Jonas Clarke and his mom, Laura Uvery, have been at Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon since mid-February, unable to leave until Clarke’s daily seizures are under control.
“He’s a warrior,” said Uvery. “He’s a fighter. Through all of this, he still smiles and giggles. It lightens up the room.”
When Clarke was first diagnosed with glioblastoma three years ago, Uvery was told by doctors that her son wouldn’t make it more than six months. As he continues to fight the stage four cancer, prayers and on-going support from friends and family have carried them both, she said.
Among the efforts to help, family has arranged for a raffle auction on March 7 at Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation, approximately 100 km northwest of Prince Albert. As relative Jamie Peekeekoot explained, the auction, planned for around noon that Wednesday, will help provide much needed relief for Clarke and his mother.
“We’re just hoping to raise money to help them with the expenses for at least a month,” Peekeekoot said, adding that things like fuel, food and parking are adding up.
The location of the auction had yet to be firmed up by press time, though Peekeekoot said it would likely take place at the community’s hall.
“He’s just a bubbly little kid,” Peekeekoot said of Clarke, adding that the École Vickers School student loves to play on tablets and video games.
Clarke had been undergoing repeated sedation while doctors try to control his seizures, which are happening as often as every half an hour. According to his mother, the worst of it came on Family Day, when the boy suffered 48 of them. Clarke, who is non-verbal with mild autism, has now lost mobility of his left limbs.
After the initial diagnosis in 2015, Clarke had a grapefruit-sized brain tumour removed, but to his mother’s dismay, the cancer began to grow again.
“It’s very aggressive,” she said. Despite that, Clarke survived.
“Doctors can’t predict when a child is going to die. Only God can,” Uvery said.
Through the dozens of rounds of both chemo and radiation treatments, and the battles with seizures, Uvery said she and her son have had the steady support of family. As he passed through each milestone of his cancer journey, Clarke has received “beads of courage,” delivered through a program at the cancer clinic.
As for her own courage, Uvery described a strategy that sustains her:
“When I walk into the hospital, I’m putting on my mama cape. I have to be strong for my son. I wear my mask. When he’s not around, I cry.”
A recent PET scan showed that Clarke’s tumour, which is on the right side of his brain, is active and growing.
“All I can do is hold his hand and pray the doctors can help,” Uvery said.
The mother tries to spend weekends with the rest of her family in Prince Albert when possible, but Clarke’s condition has her largely bound to Saskatoon, where she’s staying at Ronald McDonald House. Because of her sons’s autism, Uvery must provide special foods for him, which adds to her expenses. Occasionally, Clarke brings her son his favourite dish all the way from Prince Albert – chicken chow mein from Star House Family Restaurant. When that happens, Clarke’s eyes light up, his mother said.
Kathy Uvery, Clarke’s grandmother, said she’s doing her best to be supportive.
“You have to learn to lean on each other,” she said, adding that her heart goes out to her grandson. The grandmother set up a Go Fund Me page, called Jonas’s Battle With A Brain Tumour. Proceeds from that. have been “very helpful,” she said.
A YouCaring page has also been set up under Team Jonas.