Jackson Eric Gipe. Age 12. Large cancerous mass of the lungs and airway with possible leukemia. That is how Jackson was introduced to the PICU on June 26, 2014. That is how we learned what the word cancer really meant in a child.
Jackson was presumably a healthy 12-year-old boy. He had pneumonia in late May and the night before our helicopter ride to Iowa City Jackson complained of his chest hurting when he ran at soccer practice. I took him home and took him to the doctor early the next morning. The doctor checked him out and said his chest sounded great. They suggested Aleve because his chest just might have been sore from the pneumonia. We went about our day. Jackson wanted to go back to soccer that evening and so I let him. I dropped him off right at 6 p.m. and ran a quick errand with the intention of coming back in case he needed me. I received a phone call at 6:08 from another mom asking if Jackson had asthma. I replied "no" and I was told to rush back because Jackson was having a really hard time breathing. I arrived back at soccer to find Jackson sitting in a lawn chair, head back, lips already turning blue, and his ability to breathe was barely there.
That is how it all began. T Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia was the diagnosis. A three-year protocol of treatment was started immediately. However, Jackson’s cancer was so strong that the very treatment to put him in remission was also the treatment that tore down his body beyond repair.
Lung failure, kidney and liver failure. Infections so bad that his skin oozed. Malnutrition because uncontrollable fluid build-up led to nutrition not being a priority.
47 days. 47 days later. Then it was time for him to take his last breath.
Our family did not understand a lot of things when Jackson was diagnosed. We did not fully grasp that kids get cancer too until Jackson. We did not understand the lack of funding or the overall lack of awareness, or that there was a gold ribbon to represent.
Mostly, we did not understand Dance Marathon. Jackson was too sick to even take in consideration the diligence and work done by students to honor, love, and fund kids like our Jackson. It was not until our very 1st University of Iowa Dance Marathon in 2015 that we grasped the importance of your Dance Marathon or ALL Dance Marathons.
Our family counts on your love and understanding of our Jackson and the work he put into fighting and suffering until his time was up on this Earth.
My kids love UIDM events and they give our family something positive to look forward to. We are forever FTK.
-Anna Ertz, Jackson's mom