As you read this, Jayden Barber is soaking up the sand and sun of South
The spirited almost-5-year-old wanted to get to the beach this summer.
He also wanted a dog, and he got that, too.
And he wants to ride a tractor.
And he wants to dig dirt.
And he wants to climb a big ladder.
And he wants to go fruit picking.
The son of Youngstown’s Tim and Charlee wants a lot this summer.
Like any loving parents, they want to provide.
Unlike other loving parents, they have only this summer to do it.
Jayden has done his best to fight a horrific 1-2 battle with cancer.
In 2010, doctors discovered cancer had engulfed his right arm, from his shoulder to his elbow. He began immediate chemotherapy treatment.
In November 2011, the family was set to celebrate one year in remission for Jayden.
It was to be on a Saturday night: “Pasta dinner with rigatoni,” Charlee remembers.
But the Thursday before, doctors called. Another cancer — MDS leukemia — was diagnosed.
It’s old people’s cancer. It never happens to kids. Yet it happened to Jayden.
The family reared back again for another cancer battle. It included a bone- marrow transplant in February.
It included Charlee’s giving birth to her third son, Noah, amid all of this. Noah, 4 months, is joined by Carson, 3.
Photo after photo on the family’s various Facebook pages chronicle Jayden’s hospital stays and visits.
It’s tough to watch him slowly go from a bright, wide-eyed, blond boy two years ago, to the round-faced cancer-ravaged boy he is today on a beach in South Carolina.
And it was toughest of all July 19. That’s when doctors told Charlee and Tim the battle is over.
“Shocked,” said Charlee, 28, a 2006 Youngstown State University graduate, about her feelings when the doctors went into doctorspeak. They showed her and Tim, 27, the charts and the statistics. It was all a blur, she said.
“My faith is such, I thought I could move mountains,” she said.
Five to six good weeks, they were told. A bedridden life would be next. Six months of life, maximum.
Charlee and Tim started their family the same time as Tim’s brother Chuck, and his wife, Lauren. Lauren’s Jackson was born 11 days apart from Charlee’s Jayden. The two sisters-in-law shared the most personal moments of their pregnancies, touched their bellies together, and have been tight throughout Jayden’s cancer.
July 19 was a long day for all the Barbers, Lauren said.
“The silence was deafening,” Lauren said. “You knew all who went to the doctor. You knew the appointment time. And you’re just waiting for someone to call. And when you hear the news, I don’t know that it sinks in. It’s hard to let yourself believe it could be over.”
So the Barber army instead switched to living, not dying. Jayden’s list was made. The list is full of things that, for the past two years, Jayden’s been unable to do.
The first was to get a dog, which he could not have while battling cancer.
“Angel” joined them July 19.
And they’re checking off other Jayden wants in rapid time. More than 10 family members are on the beach as you read this.
The rest of Jayden’s list will be checked off when they return, and Jayden’s Warriors, as they call themselves, are waiting.
It includes Old North Church members, Tim’s co-workers at Alexander Construction in Austintown, the crew at Youngstown Fire Department’s Station 9.
And it includes the more than 21,600 members of “Lighting the Batsignal for Jayden” Facebook page. Last Saturday, when that page started, it had one member — Lauren.
That page’s mission is to accomplish one thing for Jayden: He wants to meet “Batman” — actor Christian Bale.
“Jayden’s all boy,” said Lauren. “He’s been into superheroes his whole life, and Batman and Ironman have been his favorites. When he saw the new ‘Batman’ movie, he just got so excited.”
“I went to bed, and there were 100 members; I woke up, and there were 5,000,” said Charlee of the bat-signal page.
The fast Facebook pace matches all that is the Barber life right now. When they get back from the beach, they immediately will launch into the holiday season — all of the holidays crammed into a couple of weeks.
Halloween is Jayden’s favorite. Charlee said a family friend has a neighborhood set to celebrate Halloween in the coming weeks, just for Jayden.
And there are two fundraisers set for the family:
Saturday, Aug. 18, MCBDD, Bev Road Masco Workshop, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., rummage sale, food sale, car wash, 50/50, basket auction, etc.
Friday, Aug. 24, St. Nicholas Church Hall, Struthers, 5 to 8 p.m. spaghetti dinner.
It’s been hard for Tim and Charlee to open their lives and needs like this, but she feels it’s as good for others as it is for the Barbers.
“On a daily basis, I get 10-15 emails from people who feel better having read about Jayden — all these inspirational emails. Even if I am private, I feel I need to share his life — that’s more who are praying. If God hears from 60,000 people, that has to be good for all of us, right?”
And good for a miracle.
They’d take one in the form of Batman answering the bat signal.
But they’d take one in the form of Jayden’s life.
Sure, they’ve made funeral plans. Sure, the firefighters have pledged a form of a fireman’s burial. Sure there’s the doctor’s outlook.
But, sure, there also is life.
And for Charlee, while there is life ...
“I will not give up on a miracle.”
Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes emails about story ideas and our newspaper. Email him at email@example.com. He blogs, too, on vindy.com.