For a little boy wondering why he had a port inserted into his chest to get an infusion of chemotherapy every other week, Jude Kelly’s parents decided the easiest way to explain all the medical procedures was to translate it to the kind of super-hero story their then-3-year-old could understand.
“We told him, you’re just like Iron Man and he has super powers and you’re going to have super powers, too,” explained his mother, Julie.
Jude was referred to Dreams Come True, a locally based wish granting organization for children battling life-threatening illnesses, after he was diagnosed with langerhans cell histiocytosis, a rare form of cancer.
A 3-centimeter tumor was found behind his right eye, which caused burning sensations and sensitivity to light.
Surgery was done to remove the growth, and Jude began chemotherapy in June 2019.
He tolerated the treatments pretty well, taking along his faithful elephant lovey “Elfie” with him to each appointment.
Amazingly, his mother said, Jude did not lose his hair.
“It made us feel like things were just a little more normal,” Julie Kelly said.
Jude recently marked two big milestones. He turned 4 on July 9, and he completed chemotherapy two weeks later.
Family, friends and neighbors waited in the family’s St. Augustine backyard for the big reveal Saturday afternoon.
“I have a room!” Jude yelled when he first saw his play area. “Wow, that is a lot of sand.”
“He thinks it’s like Christmas,” said his father, Justin Kelly.
With so many of Dreams Come True’s travel wishes put on hold during the current pandemic, Jude’s surprise was easier to fulfill.
“For some of our dream children, like Jude, their dreams unfold right here in our community, and we strive to always be ready to create these lasting memories,” said Sheri Criswell, executive director for Dreams Come True of Jacksonville.
“Over the course of several months, I managed to acquire commitments for donated material and volunteer labor from NEFBA member architects, structural engineers, a concrete company, lumber company, frame carpenters, a roofer, an electrician and more,” said Michael Lenahen, NEFBA member and owner of Aurora Builders based in Jacksonville Beach.
Jude’s cancer was caused by a genetic mutation, and there is a higher-than-normal chance the cancer could reappear.
That is the part that scares the Kellys.
The part that doesn’t is that their little super hero of a boy has beaten the condition once and that if needed could do it again.
“We just have to have faith,” Julie Kelly said.