Jessica Medinger knew the image she was about to share on Facebook was a side of her son many had never seen before – and that’s exactly why she chose to share it.
The photo of Drake Medinger wearing a pull-up, appearing distraught and thin as he holds himself over a toilet was intended to show childhood cancer in a real way.
“Because life is not always f---ing politically correct and pretty, it is real,” Medinger wrote.
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The photo was posted last week on International Cancer Day, though Medinger notes “every day is cancer day for us.”
Her 10-year-old son Drake, known affectionately as “Stinky Joe,” was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia b-cell in 2012.
A Facebook page dedicated to sharing updates on his health shows photos of the child smiling, cuddling and playing games. It also shows him in hospital beds, in wheel chairs and taking numerous medications.
But no photo garnered the same response as that one intimate moment shared last Wednesday.
“This was this morning after carrying Drake to the bathroom. Yes, he is in a pull up because 75% of the time he cant control his bathroom habits,” Medinger wrote. “This is skin and bones, because I have to beg him to eat ONE green bean for supper, or drink a cup of water through out the day. This is having your son sleep with you at night because he is afraid of something happening and being alone, and by something I mean dying. This is having middle of the night conversations with a ten year old, asking if he dies will he go to heaven and will he see his dad there and be able to talk and play with him. This is him being too weak to get out of bed or walk and needing to be carried or in a wheelchair. This is him falling asleep as someone is talking to him, because he is too exhausted. This is him, throwing up every medication I give him and him dry heaving because his stomach is empty except for the spoonful of yogurt I just gave him with his pills. This is having to take 44 chemo pills last week in a matter of 24 hours. This is him telling me, "mommy, Im not going to make it." This is him not wanting to be touched, because it hurts too much, and using morphine to get through his day. This is him telling me he is scared and thinks he wont see his 11th birthday. This is him and me, telling him that I will continue to fight for him when he cant. This is him and me, and our world.
“This is him, Drake, Stinky Joe, my whole world,” Medinger wrote. “From the moment I found out I was pregnant till future forever, he has been my reason for life. He is my smile, my love, my heartbeat. He is also my tears, my heart ache, my frowns. He is my life.”
After posting, the photo was shared more than 65,000 times. It was also posted to the Love What Matters page, where it received more than 85,300 shares.
On her son’s page, Medinger wrote she never expected the post would go viral.
“His page only had friends and family on it,” she said. “A few shares later and it exploded. I shared this picture because it is real life for us and his family. Both Drake and I are completely honest and open with his treatment and what he goes through. IF, and that is a huge IF something happens to my son, I would be honored that this picture brought awareness to childhood cancer.”
In the days following the viral image, Drake was hospitalized for dehydration, among other issues. By Wednesday morning, Medinger said Drake remained in the hospital but was “doing better.”
She made to clear to supporters that her son is not dying.
“He hit a road bump and drifted a little bit. He is on the road to recovery when overcoming some viruses he caught,” she wrote. “It is a long road, but with positive thoughts and a strong medical plan, he WILL get better and IS getting better. The picture on the viral post was not of a dying child, but rather a FIGHTING child. My son is stronger and braver than anyone else I know. He is a fighter and refuses to give up.”
A PO Box was set up soon after the image went viral, where supporters could send Drake items including:
- Gas cards
- iTunes gift cards
- Shirts (Boys Large)
- Cornhuskers gear
- Remote control cars and planes
The PO Box is:
PO Box 1725
Tomball, TX 77377-1725
A YouCaring page has also been set up to raise money for the family.