BATH, Maine — Jordan Welliver’s 14th birthday party 12 days ago was the first time many of his classmates saw him without hair. But they didn’t see him without humor.
“They were very happy to see that he was doing so well,” Welliver’s mother, Tina, recalled Tuesday. “They were happy to see him energetic and joking around with them — they didn’t expect him to be in such good condition.”
Less than three months ago, Jordan Welliver was feeling completely normal, attending classes as a seventh-grader at Bath Middle School and living life as a normal teen. But he started experiencing headaches and stomach aches, and he refused to eat.
Doctors initially found the cause of his discomfort elusive, but by early March, they delivered shocking news to Jordan and his mother: The boy had been diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroblastoma, a form of cancer.
“We thought it was a sinus infection at first, and they treated him for that, but he didn’t get any better,” Tina said. “He kept getting more and more lethargic and he said his side hurt.”
When doctors at Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick performed a CT scan on Jordan, they discovered a large mass under his left shoulder blade, Tina recalled. Further testing at Maine Medical Center in Portland confirmed that the growth was a tumor.
The cancer has affected Jordan’s liver and bone marrow, Tina said, but he’s proving resilient to chemotherapy treatments, and the tumor has begun to shrink.
Perhaps most important, Jordan has taken the potentially devastating development of cancer in stride.
“I was like, ‘Uh-oh, SpaghettiOs — not good,’” Jordan Welliver, who has two brothers and a sister, said of his reaction when doctors told him about the tumor.
The teen, whose birthday party was held on May 6 because he was due to be in Boston for a stem cell extraction on his actual birthday of May 12, said he’s not afraid of the cancer.
“It doesn’t bother me that much,” he said defiantly Tuesday at his family’s home on Union Street in Bath. “Sometimes I feel fine and nothing really changes [after chemotherapy treatments]. Other times, I have to take nausea medicine and feel faint when I stand up.”
The chemo will give way to regular doses of radiation therapy, Jordan said. After that, doctors plan to perform surgery to remove what’s left of the tumor.
The whole process could stretch out as long as 17 months, and the boy will be subjected to regular checkups long afterward to ensure the cancer doesn’t return, his mother said.
But talking to Jordan, it’s clear he intends to be on the fast track to getting back to doing what he loves — riding on his uncle Eugene Welliver’s Harley-Davidson motorcycle and spending more time with aunt Billie Jo Welliver and cousin Cody Yelland.
Eugene Welliver told The Times Record a trust fund has been established at the First Federal Savings & Loan on Congress Street to accept donations to help pay Jordan’s medical bills.
Thursday night at Bath Middle School, the Parent Teacher Association and Jordan’s classmates will hold a 5 p.m. benefit spaghetti supper and silent auction for him. Jordan won’t be available to attend, because he’s due back in Portland for more treatments.
If Jordan’s vigor at his recent birthday party is any indication, his friends from school won’t have to worry about how he’ll bounce back.
“You should have seen the kids that came [to his birthday party],” Tina Welliver said. “If there weren’t 50 people here, there weren’t any. These kids at Bath Middle School and Morse High School have rallied around him.
“He could be sitting there crying, saying ‘Poor me,’ but he’s not,” she continued. “He’s pretty level-headed. He knows it’s serious, but he’s trying to be a kid.”
Jordan Welliver may miss Thursday’s benefit dinner, but he’s planning for many, many more of those rowdy birthday parties.
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