Parents Stunned After 4-Year-Old's 'Lopsided' Smile Turns Out To Be Sign of Deadly Cancer

Jack Lacey
GoFundMe

When 4-year-old Jack Lacey's smile began looking "lopsided" in early 2019, his parents, Wes Lacey, 29, and Rebecca Oldham, 30, of Sheffield, England, thought he must have been imitating a friend's smile. There was no way they could have known the truth -- that it was actually caused by a brain tumor known as diffuse pontine glioma, or DIPG, and that the aggressive cancer would sadly take the boy's life just one year later.

  • At the same time,Jack's parents began noticing other strange changes in their son -- like a nervous blink and sudden night terrors.

    Over the course of three weeks, his symptoms grew worse, making them impossible to explain away. Jack even started walking with his hands in front of him, in order to feel his way around, according to the New York Post.

    Soon after, his parents took him to get a CT scan at Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, where doctors revealed the shocking news: Jack had DIPG.

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  • Fewer than 10 percent of children diagnosed with DIPG live longer than two years with the disease, which is incurable.

    According to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, the tumor starts in the brain stem and is more common in children ages 5 to 10, although it can appear in kids of any age. Symptoms include issues with balance and walking, eyesight, chewing and swallowing, and facial weakness or drooping, often on one side -- just like Jack exhibited. Sadly, the tumor growing inside Jack's brainstem was inoperable because it was growing in an integral part of his brain. 

    Zhiping Zhou, a neurologist at New York City's Weill Cornell Brain and Spine Center, told the New York Post that most parents feel blindsided by a DIPG diagnosis, as many symptoms arrive suddenly and intensify quickly.

    Wes and Rebecca were no exception.

  • For the next 11 months, Jack spent time at Weston Park Hospital in Sheffield, undergoing aggressive chemotherapy and radiation.

    In the meantime, Jack's parents put their lives on hold to give their boy the “best life possible” for whatever remaining time he had left. Both parents took year off from work so they could spend more time with Jack, and they even created a GoFundMe page to raise funds so he could complete his very own bucket list. 

    In total, the couple raised over $54,000 in donations to put toward Jack's cause.

  • The parents also wanted their boy to spend as much time as possible with his little sister, Charlotte (aka "Lottie").

    "If we have to accept this crazy, monstrous news, if we have to gulp down our insane amount of tears, anger, heartbreak, grief, then we need to make sure that this bright, intelligent young boy gets the send off that he deserves," Rebecca wrote on his GoFundMe page.

    "Our little boy deserves to spend as many days as he can, enjoying what time he has left and as you can imagine, we all had so many plans," she continued. "Day trips out, holidays, presents, meals out, the first time to the cinema, a dog. This goes on. We can’t believe we’re even having to think about these things, let alone plan them … The worst of all … his funeral!!!"

  • Their love and devotion certainly made a world of difference in the little boy's final days.

    In Jack's last 11 months, the 4-year-old had experiences that some people only ever dream of. 

    There were airplane and helicopter rides, a home visit from Hells Angels bikers, trips to Peppa Pig World and Disneyland Paris, and vacations in London, Spain, Portugal, Greece, and Wales, the New York Post reported.

    “Jack has done more in the last 11 months than most adults do in their entire lives," his mom told the newspaper. "If there was anything he wanted in life, he got it."

  • But after a year of fun and adventure, Jack's time finally arrived.

    In an update on the family's GoFundMe page, Wes shared that Jack passed away Monday. He died while lying in his father's lap, looking at photos of his many adventures.

    "Jack took his last breath of air surrounded by those most close to him, mummy Rebecca, daddy Wes and sister Charlotte," his father wrote.

    His parents told the NewYork Post that his body has since been transferred to a room at the Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice while they say their goodbyes, and on the GoFundMe page, Wes disclosed that any remaining funds will be donated to The Sick Children’s Trust. The grieving parents hope that by sharing Jack's story, they'll encourage others to cherish their loved ones while they still have time.

    “I never thought this would happen to us -- the odds of winning the lottery were higher than getting this brain tumor,” Wes told the New York Post. “Our message is -- don’t get complacent with their lives and just expect your family to be around.”

    And what a powerful message that is.

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