The Branstrators’ new lives consists of chemotherapy, hospital visits and much-needed fun.
At the beginning of last summer, the Branstrators’ lives were forever changed, when Jackson, 7, was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a cancerous tumor.
Jackson has already undergone several of his nine expected chemotherapy rounds, which consist of a Wolfson's Children’s Hospital stay, constant blood draws and quite a few hospital day-visits for administration of chemotherapy drugs.
With Jackson’s condition, Rachel Branstrator, his mother, has prepared a ready-bag for an immediate hospital trip that could occur at any time of the day.
“There’s no routine to life anymore,” Rachel said. “Just when you think he’s having a good patch or a good few weeks, something usually happens to throw it off.”
Rachel Branstrator likens the household’s current situation to a roller coaster ride, several downs mixed with some up moments. As Steven, her husband, continues to work, she and Jackson have to spend days and sometimes weeks in Jacksonville. And their youngest son, Adam, 4, who’s not aware of the circumstances, often struggles with separation
“There’s no routine to life anymore. Just when you think he’s having a good patch or a good few weeks, something usually happens to throw it off.”
RACHEL BRANSTRATOR, mother of Jackson, 7, who's battling cancer
“We just survive and have a good time, when we can,” Rachel said.
Yes, they do have good times, whether rehearsed or unexpectedly. During his hospital stays, Jackson — while connected to a chemo pole —tends to run down the halls or play games in the hospital arcade. There are also the times when Rachel tries to sing to him, but Jackson often tries to stop her, right before he cracks a smile. Jackson also gets to go to Camp Boggy Creek, a place where seriously ill children can have a fun-filled experience defined by compassion, laughter and acceptance.
“I’ve seen a lot of rough things on the cancer floors,” Rachel said, “but Jackson handles treatments really well. So I look around and I think, ‘This sucks, but we’re blessed.’ I try to find the good in every situation. I don’t all the time, but I try.”
The entire family always finds the good with T-ball. Jackson and Adam both play in the Palm Coast Little League. When out there, Jackson sees himself as one of the guys. They’re all running after ground balls, trying to knock the ball off the batting tee or playing rock, paper, scissors and other games in the grass.
After Christmas break, both he and his mother (a teacher) returned to Imagine School. Jackson attends first grade and loves to hang out with his friends. He’s also taking piano lessons.
While normal life has faded for the Branstrators, they are desperately seeking to make the most of it.