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11-y-o Josh faces uphill cancer battle

Published:Friday | June 27, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Eleven-year-old Josh Small and his mother, Damia Campbell, reveal some of the scars caused by the youngster's battle with Hodgkin's lymphoma. - Gladstone Taylor/Photographer

Corey Robinson, Staff Reporter




Residents of Seaview Gardens in St Andrew are mounting a valiant effort to save the life of 11-year-old Josh Small, who has been battling Hodgkin's lymphoma, a type of cancer, for the past year.

After eight cycles of chemo-therapy, the cancer has continued to spread unabated throughout young Josh's body, causing him much pain and discomfort. A year ago, the cancer was confined to his neck. Today, it has spread to his abdomen.

Doctors say that since the chemotherapy has had little effect on him, the only available option is radiation treatment, which can be done at the Radiation Oncology Centre of Jamaica, a private institution, at a cost of $1.9 million.

This is money Josh's parents do not have, and this is where the residents have chipped in.

"We are trying to help the mother raise some of the money. She needs $2 million and we are trying to see how best we can help to come up with that money," said Karon Edwards, who operates a cookshop in the community.

Edwards has taken it upon herself to mount posters informing customers of Josh's condition, and to solicit donations in his aid. On Sunday, she also spearheaded a walkathon with several volunteers, who combed sections of the community seeking donations for the youngster.


Only a week after Josh's illness was made known to the wider community, residents raised about $30,000. This is a small feat, Edwards confessed, but vowed that she and other residents would continue their efforts.

Residents of the often volatile community are also planning a raffle in Josh's aid, and at least one United States Army officer stationed in New York has pledged to seek donations on his end to help the family.

"Josh is one of my good customers and he is also my friend. He is very respectful and obedient. So we are trying to do everything we can for him. We know that we are not going to reach the full amount, but if it's even quarter of it, we are trying to achieve," said the mother of two.

"It is hard as a mother to go through this because each time I talk to her (Josh's mother, Damia Campbell) I am filled with cold bumps. Tears come to my eyes when I know that it is her only son. I wouldn't want to go through what she is going through now because I wouldn't know how to cope," she said.

On a recent sunny Sunday afternoon, Campbell fought back tears as she spoke with The Gleaner.

According to her, she first realised that something was wrong with her son two years ago, after a bump would come up on his neck ever so often.

Doctors, during a routine check-up of his asthma at the Bustamante Hospital for Children, noticed the bump and began running tests.


Shortly after the cancer was detected, preliminary tests were done, and the chemotherapy treatments started.

"It is frustrating. Sometimes I cry, but I just have to try to do what I can," said Campbell, clutching her son underneath her arm as she spoke.

"The radiation treatment is supposed to help. It's supposed to burn the cancer, so I am hoping that if we can get him to do that, we can get rid of the cancer altogether."

Josh is her only child, and the reality that she may lose him eats away at her every day, said Campbell. To make matters worse, she has given up working to take care of him, and the financial burden - money for transportation, medication and other expenses - is now greater on his father.

"We hope that this radiation will be the end of it and he will be fine, because is God keeping me so far," she said, adding that the latest drive not only boosted her chances of pooling together the funds for the radiation treatment, but helped in bolstering her morale.

According to the American Cancer Society, Hodgkin's lymphoma or Hodgkin's disease is a cancer which starts in the white blood cells called lymphocytes, which are part of the body's immune system.

Both children and adults can develop the disease, which can start anywhere in the body, most commonly in the chest, the neck, and under the arm, which then spreads quickly.

Josh's condition is in its early stages. He currently has routine swelling of the neck, fevers that come with weight loss, vomits regularly, especially after chemotherapy treatments, among other complications.

One chemotherapy session has left dark scars on his back, belly, arms and legs. Officially, he is in grade five, but may have to be held back in school after missing an entire year of classes.

"I have a cousin, Jada, and she and I are in the same grade. So when she comes home, she will give me work to do from her book, so that is how I make up," he said. "She mostly gives me religious education, language and reading comprehension, but my favourite subject is maths."

He said he misses his friends at school, and hopes to become a cook when he gets older.

Josh, who has lived in Seaview Gardens for most of his life, has had to be relocated to Portmore in St Catherine, because he gets sick from the smoke and pollutants that often blanket Seaview from the nearby Riverton City dump. He constantly wears a mask to protect himself while visiting his grandmother in the community.

Damia Campbell may be telephoned at 1 (876) 447-8238 or 1 (876) 541-1513. Donations to Josh Small may be made through Jamaica National, bank account 10507751.