Jacob Blais was two weeks into his freshman year at Salem State University last September when he started to feel the worst he had in his life. To his family’s shock, doctors at Mass General Hospital diagnosed Blais with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). In the nearly seven months since Jacob has endured twice-weekly chemotherapy sessions at the MGH pediatric oncology unit. Difficulty with blood counts has necessitated frequent transfusions to boost his platelet and red blood cell levels, Jacob’s mother Kerry Blais told the Advertiser.
“It’s been tough, he’s had at least 50 blood transfusions,” Kerry said.
So last Friday’s presentation at the Saugus Police Department of a $5,000 check from Cops for Kids with Cancer to Jacob meant a lot to the entire Blais family. Cops for Kids with Cancer is a nonprofit with a mission of providing financial assistance to families that have a child suffering from cancer. Each month, Cops for Kids with Cancer gives $5,000 each to eight different families with cancer-stricken children.
Jacob, 19, is in the midst of intensive treatments for ALL, so he stayed home and missed the check presentation as a precaution. He did FaceTime in to thank Cops for Kids with Cancer and the Saugus Police Department for their support. The plan is to use most of the money to help Jacob pay for schooling when he is well enough, Kerry said. He had to withdraw from Salem State in order to focus on his treatment. Other funds will go towards the regular drives to Mass General Hospital that quickly become costly factoring in gas, tolls, and parking, Kerry said.
Kerry is by Jacob’s side for every medical appointment. She emphasized she is fortunate to have a great boss – Glenn Bowie of Hamilton Elevator Interiors in Saugus – who allows her the flexibility to be there for her son. Jacob still has a long road ahead when his current treatment phase concludes in a few months. Kerry said he is looking at two years of taking chemotherapy pills at home.
“He’s holding up OK,” Kerry said.
Kerry thanked Jacob’s social worker, Elyse Levin-Russman, for letting them know about Cops for Kids with Cancer.
Saugus Police Sgt. Shawn Flynn – a close friend of the Blais family – submitted the paperwork through the Saugus Police Superior Officers Association to nominate Jacob to be considered for a grant from Cops for Kids with Cancer. In his application, Flynn highlighted how prior to being diagnosed with leukemia Jacob was just like any other person preparing to start college, with thoughts such as how he would do in school and how to pay for his education.
“Now, he’s worried about how to beat cancer and knows the medical expenses are going to be high and doesn’t want to add any more burden to his mom on how to cover these costs,” Flynn wrote. By providing financial assistance, Flynn asserted that Kerry as a single mom running the household won’t have to worry as much about expenses and can continue her focus on Jacob and him beating leukemia. Ed McNelley, a member of the Cops for Kids with Cancer Board of Directors, presented the $5,000 check to Jacob on behalf of his organization.
“I’m so grateful for the support everyone has shown us,” Kerry said. ”[Cops for Kids with Cancer] is a great organization that started very small and does so much for so many people. We are so thankful for their help.”