By Randy York
Wednesday was a great day for Jack Hoffman. After a morning MRI and a full day of medical appointments, the Hoffman family learned that Jack’s tumor is stable and in remission. Using one of Jack’s favorite expressions, that is “Super Duper Awesome” news and means that his chemotherapy port can be removed. While residual tumor remains, it’s inactive. “Jack has been off treatment for three months, and the tumor has not grown,” Andy Hoffman, Jack’s dad, said Wednesday night. “While it’s likely that Jack will need more treatment in the future, doctors overall feel good about Jack’s case and have told us that it’s possible that he’s done with treatment altogether.” About one-third of similar cases don’t relapse and patients are done with treatment. “We’re praying that Jack is in that one-third,” Andy said. “Regardless, we’re so thankful to God for this day, and we thank everyone for their love, prayers and support. It truly means the world, and we continue to be buoyed by everyone’s support.”
Having sat with the Hoffman family before introducing Andy to a Lincoln Downtown Athletic Club luncheon group the day before the Nebraska-UCLA game, words cannot describe the magnitude of news like this. Everywhere Jack goes, people wonder about the odds he’s facing, but out of respect for him and his family, they never ask. On more than one occasion and usually with a tear in his eye, Andy shares that fact with me, knowing that his inspiring and now 8-year-old son is fighting rather monumental odds. Wednesday was a great time for encouragement. It might have been, in fact, the biggest get-over-the-hump day since Jack was diagnosed. Yes, his battle will continue, but the latest news brings a fresh bloom of hope.
I invite Team Jack followers to click the link above and watch a video that chronicles what Jack has been through to get on this newly paved road that puts some rainbows among the storm clouds. Even if you’ve watched the gut-wrenching Big Ten Network production more than once, watch it again. It’s a perspective changer that has inspired Husker Nation to support Jack’s compelling profile in courage, not to mention countless others that Jack and his family work so hard to support. Our recommendation comes with a small warning. Before you spend nearly 10 minutes to watch, you might want some Kleenex nearby.
Like Rex, He Runs for More Than Himself
The video clarifies and dramatizes why Jack’s family fights so hard to bring attention to and awareness of pediatric brain cancer. Two years ago, Jack underwent surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital. A year ago this month, he returned to Boston for another MRI. On Wednesday, Jack went back again. This time, his dad took the photo above before the family enjoyed one of its happiest suppers together in ages. Even with the celebration of good news, the Hoffmans know they’re still on a long and winding road. The journey, however, only strengthens the resolve in a spiritual family who will do everything they can to fight the same disease Jack meets head-on every day. The kid has a lot of Rex Burkhead in him. When he runs, he runs for more than just himself.
Like his parents and his favorite Husker role models, Jack is a giver. So are his parents, who do everything they can to accommodate important causes without making their son a celebrity. “He’s a normal little boy who lives in a small town in Nebraska (Atkinson), and he’s a friend and a playmate who’s treated no differently than anyone else,” Andy said Thursday afternoon during a free moment at a pumpkin patch near Norfolk, Neb. “Jack and I got to the Boston airport this morning at 6, so we could catch a flight to Omaha and then drive here to join his second-grade class on a field trip they’ll always remember. He lives a normal life, and that’s the way we all want it to be.”
Last Thursday, Nebraska’s governor and two Husker football legends went to Atkinson to assist in a major fund-raiser for pediatric brain cancer. The result is an estimated $250,000 donation to help fight a deadly disease that can show remission for 11 months and cause death two months later. A statewide radio effort brought in $40,000, but the bulk of the proceeds benefitting this rare childhood disease came from a small town’s inner circle. Over $150,000 was raised with a silent and live auction, with $125,000 of that coming from local bidders. The support from Jack’s hometown of Atkinson, Nebraska, for the cause, was remarkable. On one specific occasion, a local resident paid $10,000 for a special Upper Deck trading card of Jack – the last of four such oversized cards that commanded $10,000 bids from the other three. In addition to the radio-thon and the auction, there were several donations made, including two for $25,000 each. The Bo Pelini Foundation, additionally, made a generous contribution on the night for pediatric brain cancer research.
Jack The Grand Marshal of UNL’s Homecoming
This week was Jack’s first trip to Boston without his mom. She stayed home to work and make sure that Jack’s sister could participate in her own field trip with kindergarten classmates. “We’re a normal family who likes doing normal things,” Andy said, admitting that sometimes, it’s hard to say no, like this weekend – an opportunity the Hoffmans simply could not turn down. Jack is the Grand Marshal for the UNL’s annual Homecoming Parade, following in the footsteps of Olympic Gold Medalist Wrestler Jordan Burroughs, the 2012 Grand Marshal. Jack will be honored at halftime simply for standing on a float and waving to long lines of people who have been inspired by his bravery, humility and a steady desire to be normal. That’s a lot less pressure than running 68 yards for a touchdown with 22 “blockers” and a cast of 100-plus teammates joining everyone in the end zone in what has to be one sports’ all-time unique celebrations.
Unable to avoid certain elements of celebrity this weekend, Jack’s favorite moments will still be sitting in the family’s new seats on the East Stadium’s sixth level. The Hoffmans have two big reasons to stand up and cheer a little louder … a stable tumor and a cancer in remission. “We know Jack’s not out of the woods, and we know that more struggles could lie ahead,” Andy said. “It’s scary but we’re not going to worry. We’re just going to move ahead, be as normal as possible and continue to pray and give thanks to everyone who’s praying with us. We share a bond and a cause, and we thank everyone who supports pediatric brain cancer in any way they can.”Send a comment to firstname.lastname@example.org(Please include current residence)
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