Treating Jaxson Martinez’s Stage 4 neuroblastoma cost about $2 million, but thanks to the Uvalde Volunteer Fire Department’s intense fundraising effort Jaxson’s parents were able to rest a little easier knowing insurance costs would be covered.
The $2 million end-of-treatment bill was revealed by Jaxson’s father, Uvalde volunteer firefighter Juan Martinez, during the department’s annual banquet held Friday at the Willie De Leon Civic Center. There, the father-son duo thanked UVFD members for their support.
Jaxson is the son of Judy and Juan Martinez. He was diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroblastoma in September of 2014 after doctors discovered a tumor in his head. A second tumor was later discovered in his abdomen.
Speaking at the UVFD banquet Friday, Juan Martinez said that for parents, hearing your child has cancer is earth-shattering news.
After the diagnosis, Jaxson began five rounds of chemotherapy before having a stem cell transplant, which involved two more rounds of chemotherapy.
Following the transplant and subsequent chemotherapy, Jaxson developed veno-occlusive disease, a liver complication common in patients receiving high-dose chemotherapy.
The hospital had little to offer. Martinez said the treatment plan was to give Jaxson medicine to keep him comfortable until he died.
For Juan and Judy, however, watching their son die was not an option.
The couple applied to be part of an experimental drug program, and Jaxson started the medication that same day. Jaxson improved and the tumor in his head was removed.
After 12 rounds of radiation, Jaxson was put on Accutane, a medication used to treat adult acne but also found to increase the survival rate of neuroblastoma patients by 10 percent.
Because she often had to miss work to be with Jaxson, Judy lost her job. She was allowed to keep her health insurance if she paid the $1,900 monthly premium.
The Uvalde Volunteer Fire Department spearheaded a fill-the-boot fundraising campaign, plate sales and supportive T-shirt sales to generate cash for the family.
Jaxson is now in remission, but the cancer has a high rate of relapse. To keep the risk of relapse at bay, Jaxson began a second experimental drug, difluoromethylornithine. The drug is given twice a day, and Jaxson will continue the trial for two years.
“At the end of every day, time is all we have left. As firefighters we know the value of time. It has become one of our most valued assets because without it we cannot make memories and as responders we know the value of time because every second means lives or property,” Juan Martinez said as he thanked his fellow firefighters.
“… Tonight we celebrate 125 years of service as a volunteer fire department. I also celebrate three more years of time spent with my son.”
Jaxson also expressed gratitude. “Thank you for everything y’all did for me,” he said. “I love you, God bless y’all, be safe on your calls when you go to them.”