Florida boy to celebrate last chemotherapy treatment
As first responders, Dane and Kimra Taylor are used to comforting others in times of stress and fear.
Now, with their 3-year-old son fighting cancer, the couple is trying to get used to what it feels like to be on the receiving end of that kind of compassion.
Jaxon Taylor was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma cancer in February. Since that time, he’s undergone surgery to remove a fast-growing testicular mass and regular chemotherapy treatments at Nemours Children’s Specialty Care in Jacksonville.
A rare form of cancer, RMS afflicts about 4.5 of every 1 million children in the U.S. each year.
The Taylors first began to suspect something was wrong earlier in the year during a regular diaper change when they noticed major swelling in their son’s groin area.
Surgery was ordered almost immediately by the urologist who examined Jaxon. After a biopsy of the mass, it was determined the couple’s then-2-1/2-year-old son had Stage 1 cancer.
At around the same time, Kimra’s mother living in Sarasosta went into cardiac arrest. At 73, she was admitted to a hospice facility, surviving for only two more weeks.
Kimra received Jaxon’s diagnosis while visiting her mom, who even in her compromised position understood the gravity of the situation.
“She had tears running down her face,” Kimra said in a recent interview at the family’s St. Augustine home.
The family feels as though Jaxon’s maternal grandmother, with whom he was very close, is his guardian angel helping him rally through this tough time.
“I just know she’s there with us,” Kimra said through her own tears.
In their line of work, both Kimra and Dane Taylor are skilled at saying just the right things to calm patients down and take their mind off trying situations.
Dane, a paramedic who transports the sick and injured for Life Flight out of Jacksonville, has spent the last several months shuttling patients some of them COVID-related to trauma facilities across the area.
But he is the first to acknowledge it’s quite different when it’s your own child facing a life-threatening medical condition.
“You hear about things like this and you don’t imagine it happening to your kid,” Dane said. “To hear that diagnosis come down, it’s scary, especially [since he’s a] 2-year-old.”
A longtime pediatric nurse, Kimra is on a leave of absence from her position in the emergency department of Baptist Medical Center South.
She agrees with her husband.
“I think the fact that we are both medical professionals helps. He was definitely born to the right parents,” Kimra said. “And we have to just stay really positive around him.”
Dane is the father of two other children from a previous relationship.
When he and Kimra married, they wanted to start their own family.
It didn’t happen right away. But after many cycles of intravenous therapy and failed implantations, Kimra finally gave birth to a healthy son at 39.
“I call him my miracle baby,” Kimra said.
In his living room earlier this week, Jaxon pet and held a plush stuffed white duck in his lap, whispering in its ear soothingly: “Now, just sit there; it’s going to be OK.”
Like Jaxon, “Mr. Duck” also has a port, a device implanted in the chest by which an individual receives intravenous treatment.
For the most part, Jaxon has tolerated the rounds of inpatient and outpatient chemotherapy fairly well.
There were a couple of times when it was hard to access the port and get him hooked up.
“We had to hold him down, and he was screaming,” recalled his father.
He’s also had some nausea and vomiting, one time so bad the family had to cancel plans to go to a Monster Jam truck show in Jacksonville.
But overall, his parents say, Jaxon has handled the experience like a champ.
And while he sat quietly running his trains along a wooden track on the floor this week, no one would likely have any idea what this cheerful little boy has been through.
According to Jaxon’s mother, his prognosis is very good. She credits much of that to their catching and treating the cancer early enough before it had a chance to spread.
“We were told within even a week it could have doubled in size,” Kimra said.
And although they initially felt like they couldn’t accept charity, the Taylors have come around and are grateful to a GoFundMe campaign (gofundme.com/f/fundraiser-for-jaxon-taylor) set up by a friend to raise money for their medical expenses and to offset Kimra’s loss of salary while on leave to care for Jaxon.
Friday, family, friends and neighbors will celebrate the last of Jaxon’s six months of chemotherapy with a 5 p.m. parade of fire rescue trucks (arranged by his father) and a low-flying helicopter past the family’s home in the Oakbrook community.
His mother said she cannot wait to see her little boy’s eyes light up with all the attention.
"We’ve been surrounded by love,“ Kimra said, ”and that’s what has helped us through.“
This story originally published to staugustine.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the USA TODAY Network - Florida.