Jameson Brooks got a Big Wheel and a guitar for Christmas. But the best gift for his family came two days earlier: The 4-year-old, in treatment for brain cancer since he was months old, had his latest MRI at Maine Medical Center in Portland.
The tumor was down 40 percent.
“I’m ecstatic. We’re all ecstatic,” Brooks’ grandmother Lora Rinow of Edgecomb said New Year’s Day. “It was a Christmas miracle.”
All indications are that the improvement is due to a different chemotherapy drug the Wiscasset Elementary School pre-kindergarten student has been on, Rinow said. The drug is the only change that has been made, she said.
Not only that, since he’s been on it, his energy level is up, Rinow said. He’s sleeping less and becoming very verbal — with lots of “Hello Susan’s” in the background of Friday’s interview after Rinow told her grandson who was on the phone.
There were more on Saturday in the living room of the Cunningham Road, Edgecomb home of Rinow and husband Randy Rinow, Brooks’ grandfather. Brooks was playing with toy tools and a string of maracas his aunt, Boothbay Region High School graduate Nikki Brooks of Portland, got him in Ecuador.
He calls them “moroccos” because his aunt has also traveled to Morocco, his grandmother said; he wants to visit the same places, she said.
As Brooks played Saturday, he and his grandmother talked about cookies, egg rolls, family members, the many Christmas decorations she had been taking down and putting away that day, and Taylor Swift.
“He’s doing great,” Rinow said about her grandson. “Physically, emotionally, everything seems to be on a different level.”
Brooks’ mother Kristen Brooks concurred in a telephone interview Saturday. “It’s amazing,” she said about the test result and the improvements she, too, is seeing in her son. She and husband Justin Brooks, Jameson Brooks’ father, were busy moving over the weekend from Wiscasset to Edgecomb, near the Rinows.
Lora Rinow said she is very excited that they will be close by.
The gains the 4-year-old is making in his development are added reason to be encouraged by last month’s MRI, Rinow said. A year earlier, the tumor had also had a significant shrink, before growing again. But Brooks is doing much better all around this time around, his grandmother said.
Even before the latest MRI, family members were optimistic about what it would show. The family shared the test result on Facebook and in a newspaper ad for Lora Rinow’s Boothbay Harbor salon, Heads of the Harbor, where the little boy spent a lot of time in his first four years.
Brooks was just shy of four months of age when he was diagnosed Nov. 18, 2011, with the rare brain and spinal cancer, pilomyxoid astrocytoma. He cannot see; his doctors don’t know if he will, Rinow said.
The three tumors on his spine went away when he was 2 and already more than a year into chemotherapy. The Dec. 23 MRI showed they have not returned, she said.
In a 2014 interview, Rinow expressed the view that pediatric cancer does not get enough attention or money because too many people don’t want to think about it; she still feels that is the case.
“I think people do feel sorry when they see a child has cancer. But this is sad, and it’s tough. And I think people just don’t want to face it.”
After her grandson’s diagnosis, an oncologist told family members the little boy would need them to have an optimistic attitude.
“And we’ve stuck by that, with lots and lots of faith and lots and lots of prayers,” Rinow added.
Follow Brooks’ and his family’s cancer fight at the Facebook page Jamesons Journey.