WATCH: A Campbell River teen is in England tonight awaiting surgery as he fights life-threatening cancer. The 18-year-old was preparing for his high school graduation in June when suddenly he couldn’t walk. He soon learned he had a rare and aggressive cancer. Now his family and community are helping him get an expensive treatment overseas. Kendall Hanson reports.
Campbell River has been filled with people raising money since learning 18-year-old Jonah Shankar had cancer and getting leading-edge treatment would mean a hefty bill.
His father recalls the first indications something was wrong was in the spring.
“We just started noticing little things,” said Cleon Shankar. “His balance was off and he would have headaches when he started to exercise really hard.”
An initial MRI didn’t find anything but suddenly the week before his high school grad, Jonah could hardly walk. He had an emergency MRI before he was whisked off to BC Children’s Hospital.
Doctors diagnosed him with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), an aggressive and rare form of cancer.
Six weeks of radiation and chemotherapy successfully shrunk the tumour. It can’t be removed because it’s so close to nerves.
The next best treatment is new but it’s offered in England and costs $350,000.
“As a parent, you feel like you really have to do everything you can,” said Cleon Shankar
That’s when the community stepped up in a huge way and raised $100,000 in two weeks.
On Sunday, the community held two fundraisers. One involved bingo and a raffle draw and it pulled in more than $1,300 dollars.
“We’ve known Jonah since he was a little guy running around the basketball court with one of my daughters,” said organizer Dana Roberts of It Takes a Village Parent’s Club. “So it’s very important that we give back to their family.”
Jonah has just arrived in London and is awaiting surgery
“Tired yesterday from the plane trip but feeling a lot better since I slept all day yesterday pretty much,” said Jonah in a phone interview.
And they can’t believe people’s generosity
“It’s crazy,” said Jonah.
“I can’t thank everyone enough because it’s been overwhelming,” said Cleon.
A GoFundMe is keeping people updated on Jonah’s journey.
He’s expected to travel to Europe several times during the next eight months to receive a special chemotherapy as he battles this aggressive cancer.