The family of Jordan Jeffries, who died from cancer at age 12, hopes that telling her story will spark much-needed conversation about childhood cancer.
“It’s going to be a little uncomfortable maybe, but we have to be open to talking,” said Jordan’s mother, Trisha Jeffries “You try to talk to people, and you realize they don’t want to think about the subject because it makes them feel sad. They maybe don’t want to know because they are afraid it could happen to them.
“But you can’t just keep acting as if everything is normal when it’s not. No one should have to bury their child.”
Jordan died Jan. 2 after a six-year battle with anaplastic astrocytoma, a rare brain cancer.
“She had such a nurturing way about her,” Trisha said. “She wanted people to be better. She never complained.”
Trisha and Justin Jeffries, both 37, were married in 2007 and had Jordan in 2010.
“She was such a perfect baby,” Trisha said. “Random strangers would walk up and say, ‘She’s just so beautiful.’ She was always smiling and happy.”
Baby sister Charlee was born when Jordan was 3, and the family had a happy life in High Ridge until April 2017.
The family was preparing for a celebration dinner when Jordan suffered a seizure and was rushed by ambulance to Cardinal Glennon Hospital.
“The neurosurgeon came in and sat us down,” Trisha said. “He said, ‘It looks like she has a brain tumor and we need to do surgery right away.’”
Trisha was resistant at first.
“I said, ‘There is no way you’re going to cut her head open.’ I wanted to hear other opinions, see what other options we had. I remember thinking, whatever we choose will affect the rest of her life. I knew nothing would be normal for her from then on.”
After a variety of tests, it was decided Jordan would finish kindergarten before heading into surgery. Her parents struggled with how to break the news to the 6-year-old.
“I didn’t want her scared by hearing words like cancer, but I wanted to be truthful with her,” Trisha said. “What we came up with was the idea of a weed, like in a garden, that needed to be pulled out for everything to grow and be normal.”
Jordan underwent her first surgery the day after kindergarten graduation. Results were encouraging; surgeons felt they had gotten all of the Stage 1 tumor and Jordan would only need to come back for checkups and monthly MRI scans.
In November, though, the Jeffries got the results they dreaded.
“The doctor said, ‘I’m so sorry, but it looks like Jordan has a new tumor.’ My heart just dropped,” Trisha said.
Jordan had her second surgery on Dec. 5, 2017, but results were not good. Her tumor was now Stage 3, and she would need radiation and a 15-month course of chemotherapy.
Doctors told her parents Jordan had only three to five years to live.
“I remember thinking I didn’t know how we’re going to survive this,” Trisha said.
The family decided to give Jordan every experience possible in the time she had, and for the next couple of years they held fundraisers and took small vacations.
Jordan was accepted into the Make a Wish program in February 2020.
“We met with them, showed them her bucket list,” Trisha said. “She wanted to see a volcano, go whale watching – so many things. The lady said Hawaii has a lot of these things. There was no way we could have afforded that, so we were super excited. Then the pandemic hit and her Make a Wish went out the door.”
Routine scans showed the tumor was back in September 2021, and Jordan had another surgery and another round of radiation and chemo. In May 2022, after tests showed the tumors were still growing. The family applied to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for a clinical trial, and Jordan was accepted in July.
“It just destroyed her body,” Trisha said. ‘She had heart trouble, breathing trouble. She started having random facial tremors.
“We constantly questioned ourselves. Was this the right thing?”
Last fall, when scans showed that Jordan’s tumors were larger than ever, the family decided to stop all treatment.
Friends and supporters helped them gather funds, and they took Jordan to Orlando to visit Harry Potter World.
“She had a good time, but she struggled,” Trisha said. “We were there 10 days, and by the time we headed home she had gone downhill so much.”
Jordan had a lot of visitors during the holiday season and got to say her goodbyes.
“She had so many visitors on the day she passed away – family, friends, teachers,” Trisha said. “Once most had left, she was on the couch and I sat on a chair facing her. She looked at me, took three big breaths and that was it. She was gone.
“You looked at her and you could see the weight was gone. She looked so peaceful. It was hard to realize she had been holding onto all that pain.”
A GoFundMe account has been established in Jordan’s name.
“We haven’t been working; we’re behind on our house, our car,” Trisha said. “People have criticized us for taking trips, doing things with the girls when we struggled to pay our bills.
But I don’t care if I have to live in a cardboard box; we needed to do what we could while we had her.”
Jordan will be remembered for her kindness.
“She went out of her way to reach out to people,” Trisha said. “She was so giving.”
Trisha said she hopes Jordan’s life will inspire people to open up to those with children affected by cancer.
“Life Story,” posted Saturdays on Leader Publications’ website, focuses on one individual’s impact on his or her community.