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Jocelyn Eubanks has a big smile that melts hearts.
The Columbus toddler, born with Down syndrome, likes to play with toys that light up and make music. Like other kids her age — she’ll turn 2 on Nov. 1 — Jocelyn also enjoys dancing and things that sparkle.
“She’s going to be a girly girl,” said Jennifer Eubanks, who will be walking Saturday in her daughter’s honor at the 13th annual Buddy Walk in Columbus, which raises funds, awareness and support for Down syndrome families.
As soon as Eubanks learned about her daughter’s diagnosis, she was eager to learn more about the lifelong, genetic condition to help Jocelyn and to raise awareness.
While doing her research, Eubanks discovered a high risk for leukemia in Down syndrome children and recommended doctors test Jocelyn for the cancer after the girl suddenly became ill.
Her instincts were right.
Jocelyn is now facing the second major hurdle of her short life, having been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in June at 19 months of age.
The toddler will return Thursday to Indiana University Health Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, where she will undergo more chemotherapy treatments. Those will continue through December.
She usually has about one week of chemo followed by another three-week stay at the hospital to ensure her white cell counts are high enough to go home.
“After the chemo, there’s a high risk of infection,” said Dr. Catherine Long, a pediatric oncologist at Riley. “The chemo knocks out their immune system, so we found that the kids that stay in the hospital longer do much better.”
Long said Jocelyn has done well so far battling the acute myeloid leukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow.
The physician said that even though children with Down syndrome are at a higher risk of developing leukemia, they also respond well to chemotherapy drugs.
“They can usually be given lower doses and have a good outcome and prognosis,” Long said. “Jocelyn has actually done very well. Just looking at her, you wouldn’t know she’s been sick.”
Eubanks is happy to see her daughter doing well in between chemotherapy treatments, but she also has had to endure watching the active youngster become nauseous, develop a rash and lose her curly, blond hair.
She can laugh about the challenges of trying to keep a toddler attached to intravenous lines, but Eubanks has found the whole experience to be emotionally draining.
Jocelyn was diagnosed with leukemia on her parents’ 20th anniversary, and Jocelyn began chemotherapy just four days after first seeing a doctor in Columbus.
Her parents had become concerned after Jocelyn began having bloody noses, bruising easily, having a fever that wouldn’t go away and looking very pale.
“Getting the cancer diagnosis was more difficult than the Down syndrome diagnosis,” said the stay-
at-home mother, who keeps busy coordinating Jocelyn’s physical, occupational and speech therapies.
Jocelyn’s father, James, works at Hisada America in Edinburgh and maintains the family’s health insurance, but the monthlong stays at Riley bring extra costs not covered by insurance.
Family friend Darla Cox of Columbus is organizing a chili supper fundraiser
Oct. 25 to help with such items as transportation costs to and from Indianapolis and the many meals Jennifer Eubanks must eat in Indianapolis while staying with
“There’s the whole emotional side to being up there at Riley,” said Cox, who has volunteered to stay with Jocelyn and with the Eubanks’ 13-year-old son, Jared. Grandparents and other relatives and friends have also been helping out.
“It’s really softened my heart and made me want to reach out to help and be a support for them,” Cox said.
Cox has helped coordinate T-shirt sales to raise money and brought gasoline and restaurant gift cards for the family. She also brings the family snacks or other needed items.
Supporting each other
Tom Milvert of Columbus has been working with the Down syndrome group and helping the parents face a range of challenges for many years.
He also has assisted with the annual walk since it began 13 years ago. That was about the same time his daughter, Michelle, was born with Down syndrome.
He said the goal is to offer support for the parents, create more awareness and create a more inclusive community for Down syndrome adults and children.
With recent renovations and improvements to The Arc of Bartholomew County facility at 2060 Doctors Park Drive, more resources also are available to these
A new lending library, which includes books, videos and other items, provides resources for accurate and up-to-date information, Milvert said.
Eubanks said she not only wants to help other Down syndrome families once Jocelyn gets well but also wants to create a foundation for children who have cancer. She has been especially pleased with her daughter’s care at Riley hospital.
“Riley has been excellent for (Jocelyn),” Eubanks said. “She even started walking since this all
With three more months of treatment to go, Eubanks is feeling hopeful. And Jocelyn’s bright orange T-shirt says it all: “Too cute for cancer.”
About Down syndrome
Down syndrome is a genetic condition that causes delays in physical and intellectual development. The lifelong condition causes some degree of learning disabilities and medical problems, but many of those with the syndrome lead full and semi-independent lives, according to Down Syndrome International.
SUPPORT GROUP: Meets 6:30 p.m. the second Thursday of the month at The Arc office, 2060 Doctors Park Drive. Next meeting is Thursday. Families and children welcome. Information: 372-0610.
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