Jonah Shankar has passed a few milestones this year, including his 20th birthday, which seemed very unlikely two and a half years ago when he was sent to BC Children’s Hospital and diagnosed with a very aggressive brain tumour.
Campbell River and other Island communities rallied behind him and fundraised to pay for a radical new treatment in London, England which involved a robot surgically implanting four catheters into his brain so the chemotherapy medication would go directly into the tumour.
The treatment was initially very effective and reduced the size of the tumour, but after seven months the treatments were stopped in favour of a new promising drug that could be taken orally instead of infusions.
One of the biggest supporters for Shankar has been the Campbell River Shrine Club which donated $5,000 last year and another $10,000 this year to help the Shankar family with his medical expenses.
Shankar has made the most of the last two years, his father Cleon says.
“He started with an internship at the video game maker EA Sports which is headquartered in Burnaby,” Cleon says. “It was an amazing experience and he got a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the latest versions of their NHL and FIFA video games.”
Before getting cancer, Jonah was also an avid mountain biker who always enjoyed watching the Redbull mountain biking competitions on TV. Jonah’s uncle, Johnny Csondes, reached out to Parksville’s Darren Berrecloth, a professional rider. Berrecloth offered the entire family tickets to watch Redbull Rampage in Utah.
“Rampage is the most insane mountain biking event in the world, and Jonah and his brother Marcus had an opportunity to meet some of their mountain biking heroes,” Cleon says.
The highlight of 2020 had to be a day flying over the Coastal Mountains with Krista Houston of Grizzly Helicopters. Houston and her family generously donated their time and helicopter to take the Shankar family on the trip of a lifetime.
Although Jonah continues to receive regular treatments of chemotherapy here at the Campbell River Hospital, there have been some setbacks for him this year. Jonah is finding that his mobility and strength are slowly deteriorating, and he struggles to speak clearly now.
“It’s disappointing, for sure. We’d love to beat this thing and there’s promising new cancer research almost every month, with better treatments and medication,” Cleon says. “That gives us hope. COVID has been a problem for us too. It’s delayed the start of some of the drug trials and we’re always having to take extra precautions to keep Jonah COVID safe. It’s also made it harder to get medication or travel to get treatments, but we’re lucky this happened in Canada. This would have cost millions of dollars for all the tests, treatments, surgeries and hospital stays if we were south of the border.
“The downside of our system is that it doesn’t cover the cost of many new and experimental drugs and treatments. That’s where this amazing community has stepped in and given Jonah a chance. The $15,000 the Shriners have donated over the last two years are a perfect example.
“We would like to thank this amazing community for all it’s support during the last two and a half years since Jonah’s diagnosis. There are too many good people to thank individually. You’re generosity will never be forgotten.”
The Shrine Club, meanwhile, is happy to be able to help a local family
“The Campbell River Shrine Club is humbled to be able to make our second donation to assist Jonah and his family during this devastating diagnosis,” Noble Brian Kruse, president of the Campbell River Shrine Club, says. “We have been able to donate to the Shankar family through the generosity of one of our Nobles who bequeathed funds to the Campbell River Shine Club in his will. So far this year we have donated over $64,000 to assist children of the Campbell River area from Noble Debeau’s generosity.”
Helping families purchase wheelchairs, new prosthetics, fund travel to one of 22 non-profit Shriner medical facilities throughout North America that offer innovative care, free of charge, is the sole function of Shriners, Kruse says.
“We are here to help, so if anyone thinks that the Shriners might be able to offer assistance to a child, do not hesitate to reach out to a Shriner that you may know,” Kruse says. “Sadly this year we have not been able to do any of our normal fundraising, normally we would be holding various raffles, Calendar Sales, and fund-raisers throughout the year.”