The Canton YMCA hosted a blood drive Thursday in honor of Austin Perkins, who recently began his battle with a rare form of cancer called endothelial sarcoma.
Officials with the American Red Cross said the blood drive was a way for the family to give back and help others who are going through health battles.
Shannon Kelly said her son started having leg pain late last year, but since he was a growing boy and played tennis, she thought it was just normal growing pains.
“His legs began to hurt; it started slowly,” she said. “It just slowly but surely crept up and got worse.”
The 13-year-old’s condition declined, and on Wednesday he had just returned home from his third round of chemotherapy.
“It’s a really rough thing to go through, sitting by your child’s bedside and wondering what comes next,” Kelly said. “Our chemos at this point are going to be an ongoing, endless thing.”
But, Kelly said the “outpouring of love from our family and friends has been amazing.”
“It’s overwhelming in a good way,” she said. “There’s been so much overwhelming toward the negative, and not knowing. But, to see so many people come together to try to help us out, to help my family… it makes my heart happier. It does make it easier knowing that people love us.”
The family’s neighbor, Monika Mendel, a registered nurse, helped set up the blood drive benefit for Perkins.
“She’s just been amazing,” Kelly said. “She stepped up and has been trying to arrange blood drives and get things together so that there are things in place to help with medical bills in the future.”
The Canton mom said it’s people like her neighbor, along with other friends and family, who have helped to create “a foundation of strength, for those moments when you don’t think you can do it anymore.”
Kelly said the family is still in the process of setting up an account at Chase bank where people can make donations to help her son.
“Prayer is very strong,” she said. “Anyone who is willing to bend a knee, we would welcome all prayers.”
Kelly also said donations to the Red Cross are also welcomed, because those donations will go to help someone else like her son.
At one point, Kelly said her son’s pains seemed to get better, but then he “took a nose dive.”
“He ended up having to quit tennis and quit his home school’s PE class,” she said. “And then after that, he was pretty much immobile.”
The mom said she took her son to many doctors, trying to get a diagnosis.
“His pain got so bad that he just cried and cried. He could not stand up, so we went to Scottish-Rite,” she said. “It took them 15 minutes to know what was going on, and we were bombarded with a slew of doctors. Within several hours, we knew that he had a large mass in his pelvis, and within one week, we had a diagnosis.”
Kelly said her son was in the hospital for more than two months, and he was able to go home for one week before heading back to the hospital for more treatment.
“We just got home yesterday from his third chemo,” she said Thursday. “He’s doing better.”
Perkins is unable to stand or walk on his own right now, she said, adding he works every day to get better.
“He’s in very good spirits, now,” she said. “Still a little frustrated at the situation, but he’s doing better. And he recognizes all the efforts that everybody has put in to pray for him and help him. He’s very thankful for that. Even at 13, he’s very, very grateful.”