Lisa Jackson is banking on a miracle.
The single mom from Galloway Township watched last year as her sweet, smart and active daughter went from a normal toddler to an irritable, struggling child.
Less than two months shy of her third birthday, Antonia Miles was diagnosed with a highly aggressive brain tumor called Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma.
The rare disease usually strikes children younger than 10 with about 300 news cases each year. It’s inoperable and incurable. The median survival time is nine months.
Antonia’s diagnosis came 14 months ago.
Jackson is putting every penny she has into getting her now-4-year-old better. She gets assistance as her daughter’s caregiver, since she is unable to work as she tends to Antonia.
She also says she wouldn’t forgive herself if something happened and she was working or hadn’t spent every moment she could with the little girl with a big smile and gift for making strangers fall in love.
Treatment began immediately with 30 rounds of radiation at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. There were steroids that bloated her and a port to aid the treatments.
For a while, Antonia started returning to the things she normally did. Running and playing like before.
But after eight months, as Jackson was warned, the effects started again.
Antonia’s left side became paralyzed. Her arm tightened by her side.
Twelve more sessions of radiation loosened her limbs, but not enough to straighten her left foot for her to walk again.
Jackson went on a search, and found a new treatment in Monterrey, Mexico, which has less restrictions than the United States. She called regularly to see if Antonia had been accepted. This October, she got the good news.
But the treatments are expensive, and must be paid in cash.
Hospital stay and treatment equal $16,000. That doesn’t include airfare, passports and a three- to four-night hotel stay for Jackson, which tacks on another $2,000 or so.
WELL FAMILY, I JUST CAN’T BELIEVE ALL OF OUR HARD WORK HAS FINALLY PAID OFF! I COULD NEVER HAVE COME THIS FAR, WITHOUT ALL OF YOU. I WANT EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU, TO PAT YOURSELF ON THE BACK, AND TIP YOUR GLASS, BECAUSE JOB WELL DONE!
Jackson has set up a GoFundMe account and a PayPal to help.
And she has hope in the form of a cute, bespectacled 8-year-old boy named Buddy.
Braden Miller was diagnosed with DIPG in January.
After going through a similar bout of radiation treatments, Buddy’s parents found the treatments in Mexico.
So far he has had four intra-arterial chemotherapy and Immunotherapy combined treatments, and an additional three intra-arterial treatments, his mother told BreakingAC.
His last two MRIs showed no signs of the tumor.
“He has returned to school, plays tackle football, and is back to his life just as before he was diagnosed,” Jeni Miller said of her son. “He is doing amazing and I am so glad he/we are inspiring others and bringing them hope.”
Antonia’s treatments have brought hope as well.
“The doctor came out after the treatment to tell me her tumor is shrinking,” Jackson said of Antonia’s second visit to Mexico.
She is also starting physical therapy at the CHOP Specialty Care Center in Mays Landing.
“Antonia is a beautiful little girl,” said Jeni Miller, who has followed the little girl’s journey online.
“For her and all the little fighters, I pray,” she said. “I pray for a miracle for them all. I truly believe in these doctors and this treatment. It’s exciting and encouraging to see Antonia and others seeing positive results.”
Jackson continues to update people on her Facebook page “Fight 4 Antonia” and through the GoFundMe account.
The latest good news makes it even more important, she said: “We have to keep going.”