MILFORD — For Axel Morris, 2020 has been extra difficult. The 15-year-old Milford High School student is fighting for his life during his second bout of lymphoma.
The early symptoms of Axel’s condition, Stage 4 mature B-cell lymphoma, were mild considering how serious the disease is.
“Normally, it’s joint pain, fatigue,” Axel’s mother, Candice Morris, said. “A lot of things you normally wouldn’t think are anything, but when they come together, that’s what the symptoms are.”
She said doctors couldn’t identify the illness “until he developed a mass in his lung.”
Because Ms. Morris is now at Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington nearly 24 hours a day, she’s had to push aside her job at Champions for Children’s Mental Health, a Delaware-based nonprofit.
In an attempt to help make up that lost income, Ms. Morris’ longtime friend, Sarah Jester, started a GoFundMe campaign to assist in recouping some costs.
“I think we should all support them and kind of stand together in whatever way we’re capable, whether it’s $5 or a ‘Hey, I’m praying for you. Let me share your story,’” Ms. Jester said.
Many of the direct medical costs associated with Axel’s care are taken care of.
“He has disability … Medicaid, so his medical is covered,” Ms. Morris said. “It’s just a struggle because I bring in a lot of income to support us… My income has seriously plummeted.”
She said this is where donations to the GoFundMe will help Axel and his family – with expenses like rent, utilities and groceries.
Ms. Jester said when Axel was diagnosed with cancer the first time, she set up a GoFundMe which raised $1,800.
“He went through four rounds of chemo and everything was looking good. He was released and sent home,” Ms. Jester said.
“Then after about four months, they were told that the cancer had returned,” she said. “I went ahead and set up another GoFundMe.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, the campaign had reached $235 of its $15,000 goal. Those interested in donating can do so at https://bit.ly/3grCp87.
Ms. Morris said Axel has been at the A.I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington for almost a month now. These days, he does a lot of sleeping.
“Right now they’re doing chemotherapy,” Ms. Morris said Tuesday afternoon. “It’s very intensive, more so than the first time.”
In addition to hair loss and exhaustion, she said Axel has to withstand ongoing blood transfusions and lumbar punctures.
“It’s a pretty hard process,” Ms. Morris said.
But this time around Axel and his mom have less emotional support. The pandemic means that friends and family are unable to visit them in the hospital.
“It’s so hard, because last time we could go up and even if Axel wasn’t up for a big visit, you could still run up there, visit for 15 to 20 minutes and leave,” Ms. Jester said.
But things have changed since Axel’s first lymphoma-related hospital stay.
“They’re so careful that you don’t even really want to have a conversation out in the garage because the reality is, they can’t afford to bring anything back into the building to Axel or the other kids,” Ms. Jester said.
“It’s really hard on us as friends not to be able to support them and it’s really hard on them to not get the support,” she said. “The ‘I love you hugs,’ how are you doing, let me run you up one of your favorite drinks.”
Ms. Morris, described her son, a fan of horror movies and anime, as candid and comical.
“He’s kind of an alternative kind of kid, so he’s not mainstream,” Ms. Morris said. “He does his own thing. He’s very independent, outspoken, funny and very resilient.”
Ms. Morris and Ms. Jester have been friends for almost 30 years. The two met in the early 90s. at Milford High School, where Axel also attends.
Ms. Jester said Axel and his family have strong roots in Milford.
“They support their community,” she said. “His grandfather works with the Lions Club (and) his other grandfather was just elected to a position in the Carlisle Fire Department.”
There’s a close bond between Ms. Jester, Ms. Morris and Axel because both Axel and Ms. Jester’s son are transgender. Ms. Morris said Axel began transitioning about two years ago.
Ms. Jester said the support through the GoFundMe more to Axel and Ms. Morris than just simple financial support.
“Sometimes when you’re stuck in a hospital room, and they’re up there 24/7 for weeks on end, you can feel forgotten, kind of invisible,” Ms. Jester said.
“It’s invaluable what it means to them to have people say, ‘Hey. We’re in your corner. We’re supporting you,’” she said.