Jack Cross, a 17-year-old Texan, was supposed to undergo chemotherapy last week from Thursday to Saturday, but he didn’t hit his blood platelet markers. Jack is undergoing treatment for bifocal intracranial germinoma, a rare brain cancer, and the low platelet count could set back his chemo. But his mom Sheila Cross doesn’t look at it that way.
The way she sees it, Jack’s low platelet count will allow him to do something he’s been excited about for a while: view the total solar eclipse. And Jack and his brother Jordan are coming to Hopkinsville, the point of greatest eclipse, to do it.
“Honestly, I’m just happy to just get out and do something,” said Jack in a phone interview. “I’ve been kind of isolated because I can’t really get sick.”
Jack, Jordan and Dr. Neil Riordan will join thousands of visitors traveling to Hopkinsville on Monday to view the total solar eclipse. Estimates have put the amount of visitors to the city up to 100,000. The visitors, who come from 29 countries and 46 states, are all visiting Hopkinsville to witness a once-in-a-lifetime event. For Jack and his brother, the eclipse offers the opportunity to forget about the troubles at home and take part in observing the rare, natural splendor along with most of America.
Jack will fly to Clarksville on Monday from an airport near his home in the Fort Worth metropolitan area. Once he, Jordan and Riordan arrive, they play to drive to Hopkinsville or view the solar eclipse from an airplane.
Watching a solar eclipse from the sky eliminates the possibility that clouds can hinder the view and it offers a unique view of the moon’s shadow looming over the Earth.
“I’ve just been hearing it’s amazing,” Jack said. “The opportunity to see it in a great spot, that would be amazing.”
Because Jack’s blood will not clot as a result of the cancer, he has to avoid injuries.
“I went to school on the first day and then the doctors told me I shouldn’t go,” Jack said. “I have broken the rules a couple of times. I went on a bike ride the other day when technically I wasn’t supposed to. But I was just itching to get out. Generally I just chill around my house, watching TV, playing video games, the same old same old.”
Jack was diagnosed two months ago. He had been admitted to the hospital after losing 20 pounds in eight days. The type of cancer Jack was diagnosed with causes diabetes insipidus, which causes the body to improperly regulate how it handles fluids.
“So, he’s on meds basically for the rest of his life while he’s fighting this life-threatening cancer,” Jack’s mother said.
Unfortunately, Jack’s cancer was not the only tragedy to befall the Cross family in the last few years.
Jack’s father, Randy Cross, died of a sudden heart attack at the family’s lake house in Wisconsin when Jack was 15. Earlier this year, Jack’s brother Collin died from a Fentanyl overdose, after a long battle with addiction, which stemmed from a Xanax prescription he received to help him process his father’s death, the mother said.
“It’s like, how does this happen to one family in such a short period of time,” Sheila said. “Jack has been the most positive, uplifting, normal. He doesn’t get angry. He doesn’t complain. It’s like, son, how do you do this?”
As a result of Collin’s struggle with addiction, Sheila sought the help of Dr. Riordan, who has researched controversial medical techniques that use stem cells to reinvigorate a variety of conditions.
Recently, Texas signed a bill into law that allows clinics to offer unproven stem-cell therapies without testing and approval required by federal law. The stem-cell therapy is not without serious detractors, but Sheila believes in it, and she believes it would have helped her son and her husband had they been able to benefit from it.
“When you lose people, you don’t care about making money anymore,” she said. “You care about helping other people.”
She has made it her mission to help spread the word of the treatment, in hopes that it will gain more mainstream acceptance. She started the Collin J. Cross Foundation to help advocate for treatment for addicts as well as stem cell therapy.
Jack, too, has felt called to chip in. He hopes to raise awareness for a GoFundMe campaign designed to help his mother pay for his own medical bills.
“It started when a family friend of ours started a hat campaign for me. And I started getting all these hats and it made me feel really good, and I just wanted to give back,” Jack said.
The campaign, available at https://www.gofundme.com/jack-cross-medical-treatment, has raised $36,745 so far.
A windfall in the first two days of the campaign, which started trending on GoFundMe’s website, has convinced Sheila that something special is going on.
“Every day something else has happened that is just miraculous,” she said. “It’s like it was meant to be. It’s weird.”
And so, as the mass of humanity travels to Hopkinsville, one boy and his brother will be among the crowd, carrying with them their own special story, with their own hopes and dreams for the future, hoping it can all be blotted out for a serene 2 minutes and 40.1 seconds of darkness beneath the sun.
Reach Sam Morgen at 270-887-3241 or firstname.lastname@example.org