Jason Overman is finally putting on weight after his chemotherapy and radiation treatments. His secret diet - popcorn, milk, tacos and pickles.
"The radiation burned his taste buds, so everything either tastes different or seems to have no taste, so there aren't many foods he can enjoy," Lorraine Hill, Jason's aunt, said.The Orem 6-year-old was diagnosed last February as having neuroblastoma, a rare childhood cancer affecting the nervous system.
The Overmans' insurance would not pay for a bone-marrow transplant, considered Jason's best chance at survival. The company argued the treatment is "experimental." The Overmans said they learned most insurance policies won't pay for the procedure - a fact most people aren't aware of until a family member needs a transplant.
The family's friends and neighbors organized dozens of fund-raisers, and people who had never met Jason organized more. Inmates at the Utah State Prison donated wages they earned doing prison chores and local merchants donated goods for auction.
A cement company and some Utah County veterinarians donated a portion of their profits on certain days, and collection cans brought in as much as $1,000 a day. School children organized benefit dances and carnivals, and Jason's neighbors arranged bake sales and dunking booths.
The efforts brought in $192,000. Jason received marrow transplanted from his sister on Aug. 18 at the UCLA Medical Center. His medical bills ran well over $200,000, Hill said.
"Jason is doing well," Hill said. "His platelet count has dropped a little, but he hasn't needed a transfusion of blood or platelets for quite a while. He is stabilizing.
"His doctor said Jason is doing marvelously. He hasn't picked up any major infections and he's gaining weight - a really good sign.
"Jane (Jason's mother) said he `eats like a pony.' He likes strong, spicy foods like tacos because he can taste them. He still likes popcorn and milk for breakfast, but he eats it with pickles now."
Jason has also begun studying at home since he cannot attend school until his immune system returns to normal strength.
"He just loves his lessons," Hill said.
Jason's mother 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.