A Frankfort teen is winning the battle against a rare brain tumor thanks to St Jude Children's Research Hospital.

15-year-old Ahmed Merdanovic battled 4 brain surgeries before he even became a teenager. The fifth was the one that's helping save his life.

It began when Ahmed started getting headaches when he was only 9. His mom Jennifer Curtis, knew something was wrong when he lined up for a fire alarm at school one day.

"There was no alarm. He was hearing it in his head."

Brain Tumor

MRI results showed the constant noise Ahmed was hearing was coming from a softball-sized tumor in his brain. "Doctors told us it had blocked the flow of the cerebral spinal fluid," said Jennifer. "We were sent to Syracuse immediately. I wanted a second opinion but they told us there was no time. He needed emergency surgery or he'd slip into a coma."

It wasn't just one surgery. Ahmed went through several over the next few years. After the 4th surgery, Jennifer took matters into her own hands. She'd heard St Jude Children's Research Hospital had seen more brain tumors like Ahmed's than any other hospital. "

We contacted the hospital and a doctor called back on a Sunday afternoon, from his personal cell phone, saying he wanted to see us," said Jennifer. "We flew down and Ahmed had surgery within a couple of days of us arriving."

Photo Credit - Jennifer Curtis
Photo Credit - Jennifer Curtis

10 Weeks at St Jude

Ahmed spent 10 weeks at St Jude. "It's an amazing place," he said. "I always knew I was being taken care of. Everyone is so nice and welcoming."

Mom knew her son would be taken care of too. "Everything happened so quickly. It was all new and I didn't know what to do. It was terrifying. But when you walk through the doors at St Jude, all of a sudden you have hope. Everywhere you look there are children battling cancer, but everyone is happy."

The hospital, which Ahmed says is not like an actual hospital, treats so much more than just cancer too.

 "Doctors here would treat the tumor, but at St Jude, they treat the entire patient," Jennifer explained. "Everything the tumor causes has so many side effects and they treat that too so he could have a better quality of life."

Credit - Jennifer Curtis
Credit - Jennifer Curtis

Rare Tumor

Cranial meningioma may be a rare brain tumor, but St Jude is helping children win their cancer battle every day. "You meet so many children with the same tumor. You can commiserate with other families and get hope from their journey. It's so uplifting."

One of those families is from Remsen. Anna Jones has the same tumor as Ahmed and she's been cancer-free for the past five years.  "We met them a few years ago at St Jude," said mom Christine Jones. "It's crazy to think there’s a one in 2 million chance of a child having this tumor and these two lives so close."

Read More: Remsen Girl Winning Battle Against Rare Brain Tumor

Ahmed returns to St. Jude for constant follow-ups. "His residual brain tumor is small and stable," said Jennifer. "He continues to lead a happy, healthy life, enjoying school, friends, and family."

Credit - Jennifer Curtis
Credit - Jennifer Curtis

Help Save Lives

It's all thanks to one phone call to St Jude. And the family has never seen a bill for anything. Not for treatment. Not for housing. Not for food. Not for travel. At St Jude, they believe all the parents should worry about is caring for their child.

Jennifer believes in Danny Thomas' mission to end childhood cancer for good.

Only 4% of government funding for cancer research is directed toward childhood cancer. And more than 95% of childhood cancer survivors experience significant health related issues due to current treatment options. We need to find better treatment options for childhood cancer. And this is what Danny Thomas set out to do 61 years ago when he opened St. Jude. As he said, “No child should die in the dawn of life.” We are so thankful for St. Jude, saving Ahmed. We will always try to give back as St. Jude continually works to improve the outcome for childhood cancer.

You can join Danny Thomas, Jennifer, and all the others supporting the mission by becoming a Partner in Hope during our Country Cares Radiothon, presented by Drain Masters.

Call the Express Employment Hotline at 800-995-5257 or donate online at St Jude.

"We are just blessed because of St Jude," said Ahmed. "They have done so much for my family. They have done so much for me and other kids around the world to grow up to be healthy in every aspect of life. Please donate to St Jude."

Credit - Jennifer Curtis
Credit - Jennifer Curtis

Thank You Gifts

To thank you for supporting St Jude Children's Research Hospital and becoming a Partner in Hope with Care Net of Central New York, you'll have the honor of joining the country community with a 'This Shirt Saves Live ' t-shirt and your choice of tickets to see either the Harlem Globetrotters February 15 or FrogFest. A few Partners in Hope will get tickets to see Old Dominion in Albany, Luke Bryan, or Chris Stapleton in Syracuse.

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