SOUTH ROXANA — It was a routine physical, but nothing about Jasmine Gaunt’s five-year-old life has since been routine.
Jasmine, or “Jazzy,” to friends and family, was recently diagnosed with childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia after a check-up last month raised concerns. The doctor visit was ahead of what was supposed to be an exciting time for Jasmine, the start of her kindergarten school year. Instead, it was the start of a series of tests and chemotherapy treatments.
Josie Gaunt, Jasmine’s mother, took her daughter, one of six children, for the school physical exam in early August, and results of the blood work led Jasmine’s physician to recommend she take a multivitamin. In the days following the visit, Josie said Jasmine was experiencing fatigue and had irregular bruising on her body, raising more questions.
At the urging of Josie’s grandmother, Jasmine went back for another check-up. On Monday, Aug. 15, another, more specific blood test was done.
Less than two hours later, Jasmine’s doctor was back on the phone with Josie, urging her to take Jasmine to SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis.
“The last thing he said to me was, ‘It looks like leukemia. Do you understand?’” Josie said.
The next few days were filled with more needles and tubes — blood coming out for more tests, blood and platelets going in — and on Thursday, Aug. 18, doctors confirmed that Jasmine had ALL. They began chemotherapy the next day.
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is a type of cancer in which the bone marrow makes too many immature lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. It is the most common type of cancer in children, with about 3,000 people younger than age 20 found to have ALL each year in the United States.
Even with her diagnosis, Jasmine has largely remained the “stubborn, silly goofball comedian” her mother described her as being before. Whether urging her mom to eat at a time when the chemotherapy sometimes makes her sick or riding her three-wheeler up and down the halls of her floor at Cardinal Glennon, Josie said Jasmine “keeps me going.
“She has her moments where she doesn’t feel good, her bones ache and she’s just ‘blah,’ but she perks up and I get to see the little girl that she was before all this,” Josie said.
It has been difficult on the family as well. Josie, who was just getting around to putting in job applications following the birth of her three-month-old daughter, Pamela, stays with Jasmine around the clock.
Timothy Gaunt, Josie’s husband, goes home once every few days but has also been staying at the hospital. Timothy, who works as a flooring installer in St. Louis, gets picked up in the morning by his boss and gets dropped off at the hospital at the end of the work day.
That leaves their other five children — Jaden, 10; Cashtion, 9; Serenity, 7; Trinity, 2; and Pamela — mostly in the care of family members. Josie said she has been shocked by the “huge, huge support system” that has come to the family’s aid in the past few weeks.
“People that don’t even directly know us have reached out to us. My kids’ church came up here, (Jasmine’s) kindergarten teacher, she came up here,” Josie said. “We really appreciate all the love and support.”
Where Jasmine’s fight goes from here is still unknown. Josie said doctors have told them Jasmine will stay in the hospital and receive chemotherapy treatments for at least a month, at which time she will be re-evaluated. As long as she’s responding well to the treatments, she will be allowed to go home.
“From there, you kind of just have to take it a step at a time,” Josie said.
As it has been from the beginning, the steps won’t be taken by herself. Friends of the family Erica Kopp and Maranda Causey have begun organizing a benefit in November, and a GoFundMe account has been set up to help with hospital bills, gas and other financial needs. A Facebook page entitled “KICKIN CANCERS BUTT WITH JAZZY!!!” already had 528 members as of Monday afternoon.
Kopp said they’ll continue doing whatever they can to show support for “a very bright, spunky, full-of-life little girl.
“We’re all fighting together,” Kopp said. “She’s not alone.”
Raising six kids is expensive.
Jasmine’s diagnosis compounded that, but friends and family are hoping to ease at least some of the burden placed on the Gaunt family during these times.
Kopp and Causey have begun organizing a fundraising event in November to benefit the family, and a GoFundMe page, entitled “Kickin Cancers Butt With Jazzy!,” was also created in the wake of the cancer news.
Kopp created the page, which has a stated goal of raising $10,000, to “share with Jasmine letting her know no one fights alone” and that Kopp and others are “team jazzy 100 percent,” she wrote on the page. The page had received $110 in donations through Tuesday morning, the 11th day of the fundraising campaign.
A more urgent need for donations also exists, with expenses for things like food and gas mounting for the family, Causey said.
“Any donations that could be made now would be very, very greatly appreciated,” Causey said.
On Nov. 6, a benefit will be held at Shortstop Bar and Grill, 317 E. St. Louis Ave., in East Alton. From noon until 6 p.m., the event will have a live band, OneDay, along with food, a 50/50 drawing, silent auction and T-shirts for sale. To keep up to date on the benefit and more information related to Jasmine’s fight, people are encouraged to like the Facebook page “KICKIN CANCERS BUTT WITH JAZZY!!!”