Faith for family gets them through

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 27, 2012

Kaleb Jones, the 14-month-old son of Florala High School head coach Justin Jones and his wife, Joni, was diagnosed in February with a Wilms’ tumor. | Courtesy photo

As it stands right now, everything looks good for Kaleb Jones, the 14-month-old son of Florala High School football coach Justin Jones and his wife, Joni.

That wasn’t the case earlier this year, when on Feb. 29, Joni noticed blood in the baby’s diaper. What she thought would end with a simple trip to the pediatrician and some antibiotics was only the beginning of the journey known simply as “cancer.”

The family was sent the next morning to Children’s Hospital in Birmingham where they received the news.

“The doctor told us that Kaleb had a large tumor covering most all of his right kidney and everything pointed toward it being a Wilms’ tumor,” Joni said. “How do you prepare yourself to hear those words? I don’t think there is any way to be prepared, so we handled it the only way we knew how.

“We sat in silence at times feeling numb; we cried a lot with all the uncertainties, and we looked at a happy baby boy playing in his crib and knew we would do whatever was necessary to get him well,” she said.

Jones said her first point-of-contact was Jana McGlamory, organizer of Meredith’s Miracle’s, but it wasn’t for financial assistance.

“I learned that her daughter Meredith had a Wilms’ tumor,” she said. “She gave me a lot of strength and valuable information.”

Generally, there is a high success rate when treating a Wilms’ tumor, a cancer of the kidney that typically occurs in children. And since that fateful day, the Jones family – which also includes 9-year-old Anna, 4-year-old Abby and 3-year-old Jacub – has held true to that promise. Surgery was performed to remove the affected kidney and some lymph nodes, and now, Kaleb’s on No. 7 of 16 chemo treatments. Joni said if the treatments stay on track, it should be finished by the last week of August.

“I’m thankful for that bloody diaper,” she said. “That’s not always a good sign, but in our case, it led to an early detection, and we wouldn’t have been able to find it until it got big enough to see or feel. They couldn’t tell how long the tumor had been growing. They said it was just one of those things.”

Joni said there are two things that have made this ordeal “bearable.”

“First, is our faith, and the other is the support of our family and friends, and the Florala community,” she said. “I can’t tell you how great everyone has been. We’re from Enterprise, and all of our family and friends there have been so supportive.

“We haven’t been in Florala but for a short time, and you wouldn’t expect that level of support from people you just met,” she said. “But, what those people have done for us, for our family, it has been amazing.”

Jones said the FHS community has organized fundraisers to help the family with travel expenses back and forth to Birmingham. Tomorrow, another fundraiser – a Zumba and Tae-Bo event – will be held at the FHS gym at 6 p.m. Admission is $5 and donations will be accepted. For more information, contact Rebecca Caraway at 334-498-2067.

“Justin always wanted to be a head coach,” Joni said of her husband, who previously served as an assistant coach at Enterprise High School before coming to FHS in 2011. “We prayed for God to open the right door and God wanted us (in Florala). Now I know why.”