Jasmine Fowler did not plan on battling cancer the summer before her freshman year of high school, but that is what the 14-year-old did.
Fowler, the granddaughter of Perry and Lisa Bell, was diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer this past spring. The cancer metastasized and spread into her lymph nodes and lungs, with floating tumors in her abdomen.
Jasmine has been fighting her cancer with an inspiring strength every step of the way. Members of the community have taken notice, and are organizing events to support Jasmine and her family.
The Knoxville First United Methodist Church is organizing a soup supper benefit in honor of Jasmine. The benefit will take place on Oct. 25 from 4:30-7 p.m. in the West Fellowship Hall. Soup will be available for a free-will donation.
Perry, Lisa and Jasmine regularly attend the Methodist Church and have close relationships with many of the members. Lisa says that although their family did not ask for anything, the church insisted on doing an event to help them out.
“Everybody has just been so kind,” Lisa says. “It’s just been amazing to me how everybody takes care of everybody. Our girl is special and everybody has been praying like mad for her.”
While Jasmine and her family appreciate the monetary help, they want to make it clear that what they really need is prayer and support.
“We’re standing on faith,” said Lisa.
Over the summer, Jasmine underwent four chemotherapy treatments, with only a week in between each. Lisa says that typically, chemotherapy patients have one week of treatment followed by three weeks off. Because Jasmine’s cancer was so far advanced, her doctors had to take a more aggressive approach.
The chemotherapy did not shrink Jasmine’s tumors but was able to temporarily stop the growth. Jasmine experienced almost no side effects from the chemotherapy, except losing her hair and some slight nausea.
In August, Jasmine and Lisa made a trip to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Jasmine was to undergo surgery to remove the tumor from her liver, which took up over 75 percent of her liver. Doctors told Lisa the surgery was a 9.5 out of 10 on the difficulty scale.
Jasmine’s surgery was a success. She had a team of 10 doctors who helped remove over three-fourths of her liver. During the process leading up to her surgery, Lisa said Jasmine did not fuss or complain once.
The day after her surgery, Jasmine was walking around her room feeling completely fine. Her liver was already fully functioning. Lisa says Jasmine’s surgeons were dumbfounded with how perfectly she handled the process.
Jasmine donated her tumor tissue for research. It is being studied by teams at Mayo Clinic and Rockefeller University in New York. Lisa said that Jasmine wanted to help prevent another kid from going through the same experience as she was.
“God has given her the strength to go through this and come out the other side, and to help others,” Lisa says. “That’s her goal.”
Although the surgery was a huge step forward in Jasmine’s battle against cancer, she still has a long road to go. Jasmine’s most recent visit to the clinic shows that while things are looking good, she still has the tumors in her lungs.
Jasmine has Fibrolamellar cancer, which is a rare cancer unique to each person that gets it. Her doctors are looking for what medicine will be the best course of treatment for Jasmine, because what works for one person might not work for another with this type of cancer.
Lisa says that shrinking the tumors in Jasmine’s lungs is the next step. The tumors are too big for surgery right now, so doctors are searching for treatments that will either shrink or destroy the tumors completely.
“We’re just kind of in a holding pattern and standing on faith to come through,” Lisa says.
Still, Jasmine is not letting anything get her down. She was cleared to go back to school and has been attending Knoxville High School for over two weeks now. Her hair is also starting to grow back.
“She’s doing fabulous,” Lisa says.
Recently, Jasmine was honored at a Pella Christian home football game. She attended seventh and eighth grade at Pella Christian, and was given a warm welcome back by her friends and classmates.
Pleasantville is also planning to honor Jasmine at their “cancer crusher” themed football game on Oct. 18.
“It’s just very special that everybody is so loving and so kind,” Lisa said. “We’re just so thankful, just really thankful for everybody.”
Perry commented, “There have been so many tears shed as Jasmine continues her fight. We are so blessed to be associated with great friends at church, as well as at the schools, in particular, Pella Christian and Pleasantville. It is so difficult to thank everyone for their kindness in these tough times.”
Jasmine has also been granted a trip to Disney World through the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Her trip is scheduled for early 2020.
“I’m just thankful to have her. She’s such a sweetheart,” says Lisa. “Life is just precious. It can be so beautiful, even through the tough stuff.”