Jackson Dupps of Ahwatukee was not yet 2 when his parents made an appointment with their pediatrician for a constant cold, looming fever and a hard lump in his belly.
Kelli and Gregg Dupps soon heard the words that every parent dreads: your son has cancer. Jackson was diagnosed with a Stage 2 Wilms tumor in January 2013.
Within days, doctors at Phoenix Children’s Hospital removed the tumor along with one of Jackson’s kidneys. He endured a long and arduous course of radiation and chemotherapy before he was declared cancer-free in December that same year.
He is a reason why the Dupps family will be at Grand Canyon University on Saturday, March 10, for the Run to Fight Children’s Cancer presented by Children’s Cancer Network. It is the largest race in Arizona dedicated solely to pediatric cancer.
The 10K run begins at 7 a.m., followed by the 5K walk/run at 7:45 a.m. and a 9 a.m. cancer survivors walk. A post-race festival will offer a vendor expo, arts and crafts, jump castles and music.
Since 2011, the Run to Fight Childhood Cancer has attracted an estimated 17,000 participants and raised more than $500,000 for pediatric cancer research and care.
All funds benefit Arizona families through Children’s Cancer Network and Phoenix Children’s Hospital.’
“Phoenix Children’s Hospital saved Jack’s life, and Children’s Cancer Network saved the rest of our family,” said Kelli Dupps, who also credits the Ahwatukee community for getting them through this horrific experience.
Through his cancer journey and to this day, her 7-year-old son has lived up to his nickname, “Action Jackson.” He’s the toughest, coolest 7-year-old around.
In addition to surgery to remove the tumor and one of his kidneys, Jackson’s treatment included radiation and intensive chemotherapy.
He did not tolerate the chemo very well. His counts would plummet, and the providers would have to scale back the amount of chemo Jack was getting.
As a result, when treatment ended in December 2013 and he was declared cancer-free, his parents worried that he hadn’t had enough. For the next two years, he returned to the clinic for frequent blood tests, as there are concerns about relapse.
In December 2017 – four years after completing treatment – his doctor said he wouldn’t need to be tested again for a full year. This was a significant milestone for their family.
Jackson started kindergarten on time, also a significant accomplishment for a boy whose childhood was marked by invasive cancer treatments.
Today, Jackson is a fun-loving, boy’s boy with a huge, infectious laugh. His mom says he puts everyone in a good mood, yet he is tough as nails and “is an old soul.”
But he’s also just like most boys his age. He loves Star Wars, Cub Scouts and Legos. He had planned to play his first season of Little League, but a broken arm benched him for the season. Still, he loves watching big brother Ethan, who turns 12 this month, play.
Last year, the Dupps family was unable to participate in the Run to Fight Children’s Cancer because they had plans to camp at a beach in California that week.
Their group in California included about 50 of their friends from Ahwatukee, and they staged their own run in honor of Jackson.
From the moment the Dupps learned of their son’s diagnosis, their neighbors, friends and family provided much-needed support, casseroles and cookies.
In addition to their crash course on pediatric cancer, they learned a gentle and merciful lesson from a community eager to ease their burden: that love runs deep, kindness mends hearts and no one has to go it alone.
Information/registration for the run: runtofightcancer.com.