Meet JJ Funderburke. The newest (amazing) one of our #MollysKids
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - JJ Funderburke is 4 years old and from Stanly County, but spent much of 2021 living at Levine Children’s Hospital. He was there Feb. 6 to March 11, after getting an out-of-the-blue diagnosis of Stage IV Wilm’s cancer.
“This type of cancer starts from renal tissue,” mom Stacy said. “Unfortunately, by the time we discovered JJ’s, it had already spread to his liver, both lungs, inferior vena cava, and heart. We didn’t know he was sick. And, it started so randomly. Here’s the first sign we had: After breakfast on the morning of February 1st, JJ told me that ‘there was a sausage biscuit stuck in his mouth.”
In all the amazing #MollysKids stories we have, none has ever started with a pre-schooler mentioning ‘a sausage biscuit stuck in his mouth.’ It’s a cute chuckle, in many ways. That is how a 4-year-old knew how to describe a pain he knew wasn’t right, but also wasn’t making him cry.
After he said that, mom Stacy checked him out and didn’t notice anything wrong. JJ drank water and said it felt better.
Now fast forward a few days. On February 5th, JJ started complaining about his belly hurting. Once again his mom checked him out, as best as a mom can do, and this time she noticed his stomach felt a little tight. She asked—as many moms would—”Did he need to poop?” He said no, started playing again, and the rest of the night went by like usual. JJ ate dinner, and played in family game night.
But in the early hours of February 6th, JJ came into his parent’s room crying. This time it was about his shoulder. He snuggled in and fell asleep, but at this point his parents were worried. They decided to take him to urgent care first thing the next morning.
At urgent care, the doctor did an x-ray and saw what he thought was free-trapped air. He said he scared there was an intestinal perforation. He was going to send JJ to Jeff Gordon Children’s Hospital in Concord, but changed that at the last minute because the surgeon he wanted was in Charlotte at Levine Children’s.
“This would be the first of many interventions by God,” Stacy said. “The fact that by chance we went to the right place immediately.”
Once at Levine’s, the surgeons said they were a little worried because they could feel an enlarged liver and what they thought was an enlarged spleen. They ordered a CT scan.
“That’s when everything changed,” Stacy said. “Turns out there wasn’t a perforation and what they thought was his spleen actually turned out to be a large malignant mass on his left kidney. It was the size of a grapefruit. The CT scan also showed innumerable masses in JJ’s liver and lungs, with an additional mass stretching through his interior vena cava and into the right atrium of his heart.”
Her sweet little boy with a “trapped sausage biscuit causing pain,” actually had Stage IV cancer.
JJ started a 6-week chemo cycle, that he just wrapped last week. This week brings more tests and scans. Hopefully, Stacy says, they’ll show the tumor on his kidney has shrunk. If so, doctors will do surgery to get rid of that kidney, and that grapefruit-sized tumor.
There’s a chance if the surgery happens, they’ll also operate on the right atrium of his heart, but doctors won’t know until the scans.
If you’d like to follow JJ’s journey, family members started a Facebook page called JJ’s Army.
“JJ has been so brave throughout this entire experience,” Stacy said. “So many kids battle these uphill battles and reading about them through #MollysKids, while sitting here in the hospital, made an impact. We’d love for JJ’s story to be shared as well. We are at home now though… JJ was thrilled to be reunited with this sister.”
An (adorable) photo below of him and his younger sister.
“I’m his mom so I might be a little biased,” Stacy said. “But JJ really is a great kid. At 4-years old he gives candy and toys to kids next door, and he loves to learn. Sadly we’d filled out his kindergarten application the day before taking him to the ER, but we’ll figure that out in time. For now, we just want him to be better.”
Welcome to #MollysKids, JJ.
And Stacy, it’s okay for a mom to be biased when it comes to loving her kids.
Copyright 2021 WBTV. All rights reserved.