Jason Overman has developed some unusual talents to cope with his cancer treatment.
The 6-year-old Orem boy underwent radiation treatments and a bone-marrow transplant at UCLA Medical Center in August to treat his neuroblastoma (a rare childhood cancer that attacks the nervous system). Part of his medical bill was paid with $192,000 collected at community fund-raisers.On instructions from one of his doctors, Jason began telling one joke a day. The theory is that laughter is the best medicine.
Jason's humor kept the other pediatric patients in stitches, so to speak, but may be lost on anyone older than 6. Two of Jason's favorite jokes are:
"Have you heard the one about the three eggs? Two of them are bad," and "When it's this hot at UCLA, how does a bird get a worm out of the ground? With a hot pad."
Jason's other new talent is psychological self-control. His new techniques help him keep medications down much better than most marrow-transplant patients.
"He has to use a special mouthwash because his mouth could get infected so easily after the radiation," Lorraine Hill, Jason's aunt, said Wednesday. "It makes him throw up, but he knows he can't throw up because he needs to keep his medication down.
"So he psyches himself up for his mouthwash. He sits on the edge of his bed and does a kind of meditation. He developed the psychological system for himself.
"He took the mouthwash and medication so well, the nurses at UCLA wanted him to give lessons to the other kids, but he went home too soon."
Hill said Jason had a flare-up of graph-versus-host disease (where donated marrow rejects its new body) last week, but medication controlled it, and this week he's feeling better than he has since before his cancer was diagnosed in February.
"Tuesday he was feeling so good he was jumping around, telling jokes to his mother."
Jason may get some of his energy from the hardy meal he eats each morning, Hill said.
"His favorite breakfast is popcorn and milk."
The boy's platelet and white blood cell counts are stable, Hill said, and he hasn't needed a whole-blood tranfusion in six weeks.
Jason gets a lot of support from his family, Hill said.
"When I went to see Jason for the first time after he came home, I couldn't believe it. The whole house is covered with balloons and notes from his brothers and sisters. Everywhere there is a reminder of their love for him.
"Of course, they aren't supposed to kiss him, but every member of the family takes time to hug him and ask how he is doing.
"No wonder he was homesick when he was at UCLA. If love counts for anything, his family will get him through this."
Jason's mother Jane said although he is feeling much better, it will take a long time for his immune system to return to normal strength. Jason is not allowed visitors because exposure to viruses could threaten his life. He will remain in protective isolation until further notice.