A 7-year-old Ashland boy named Zenith is facing a battery of medical treatments after being diagnosed three weeks ago with a form of leukemia.
But he's not fighting alone.
The good news, says Zenith's mother, Brittany Brooke Greenfield, 27, is that the disease — acute lymphoblastic leukemia — has a high survival rate, and treatments are covered by the Oregon Health Plan.
And the icing on the cake, she says, is that the community has rallied "amazingly," starting with a benefit concert with three volunteer bands at 7 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 13, at Alex's Restaurant.
Zenith's chemotherapy treatments will be covered by OHP. But he also is receiving holistic treatments at Jade Mountain Medicine in Ashland, which is not covered. Plus, the family faces expenses for trips to Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland.
The first need, says Greenfield, is a car. Zenith's father, Kenyon Whyte, has a 1990 Honda Civic that's been breaking down and cannot be relied on for the trips to Portland. In addition, Greenfield, who does not drive, needs to take driving lessons and get a vehicle in case of emergencies.
For these expenses, Sapphire Meeks, a friend and co-worker at Avant Garb, has taken charge of fundraising, including the concert and a page on gofundme.com, which had raised $6,829 from 127 people in 23 days as of Friday.
Zenith will have to stay in the hospital for an unknown length of time, leading to considerable expense and lost wages, says Meeks' statement, and the money raised will go for that and other costs.
Zenith, a first-grader and the eldest of the couple's two sons, loves superheroes and shooting baskets, says Meeks.
"He has no immune system at all. It's pretty heavy duty. A cold could be life-threatening. No one can come in the house."
Zenith has started chemotherapy and faces major surgery Jan. 9-11 in Portland. He will need a lumbar puncture to draw bone marrow, and a "power Port" — a semi-permanent intravenous port for chemo drugs and blood transfusions — will be placed in his chest, just above the heart, said Greenfield, in a gofundme statement.
"The awesome thing about ports is that they can get wet. So he can take swimming lessons with no worries," she says. "His hair is starting to thin, so we are having a superhero haircut party ... so the shock of being bald is minimal. Still, I wish he would let me shave my head in support of his journey, but he will not."
Two-thirds of people with ALL are children, and about 2,500 people a year are diagnosed, says Meeks, in a statement.
"It occurs when there is an overabundance of white blood cells within the body's bone marrow. The white blood cells crowd out the healthy cells. ... With treatment, there is a high survival rate."
"I always knew I was part of a community here, but this support is amazing," says Greenfield, who grew up in Ashland.
The bands playing at the benefit concert are Frankie Hernandez, Brother and Synrgy. Tickets are $5 to $10 on a sliding scale. Raffle tickets will be sold, with many prizes donated by local businesses.
Donations may be made at www.gofundme.com/helpingzenith.
For more information, contact Meeks at 541-601-3502 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at email@example.com.