Todd Jaros stopped and squinted out at the football field at Belton High School. He let out a sigh.
I try not to miss a chance to engage my old friend in conversation so I asked about his son, Landon Jaros, and the ongoing fight with leukemia. Todd seemed a bit hesitant. These types of conversations haven’t been easy but remained a constant during the recent months.
Eventually, Todd offered up hope.
Landon had been doing better, and treatments were getting ready to be reduced to once a month, hopefully lessening the burden on the family and more importantly the stress on four-year-old Landon’s life. Todd said he knew how much Landon wanted to just go back to being a normal kid and participate in normal activities.
Cruelly, Landon Jaros never received that opportunity.
My conversation with Todd happened on Friday, Sept. 16. On Tuesday, Oct. 18, Landon Jaros died of complications from cancer at the age of 4.
The prognosis Todd gave me in Belton, Mo. indicated hope, but soon, complications cropped back up. Landon ended up in intensive care over the weekend after cardiac arresting for about 4 minutes and then suffering a stroke. This wasn’t a fight, and Landon left this Earth never fully understanding why he suffered.
None of us understand either.
How do you eulogize a kid who didn’t receive enough time in this world with us? The only solace comes in how one little boy stricken with cancer touched so many lives in Platte City, the surrounding community and, really, around the country.
Most of us knew Landon as the peppy fireball with the red hair, often tagging along behind dad at Platte County School District athletic functions and events. He loved to swing a baseball bat and kick a soccer ball, the normal activities he wanted to so badly to return to.
Todd and wife Megan Jaros — both Platte County High School graduates — have received amazing support from the community and will continue to need us to rally around them. They’ve never asked for much since Landon’s diagnosis of T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia in late March, but the giving never stopped.
Rumor has it, Todd never once mowed his lawn this summer, and meals were arranged to help deal with the stress of doctor’s visits and other unscheduled complications.
In the initial stages, friends and family sent videos for Landon to watch in the hospital, an effort that eventually expanded to include Laurence Leavy, aka “Marlins Man,” and Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer. The Platte County baseball team, which Todd Jaros helps coach, held a special fundraiser day, selling #PrayForLandon bracelets with the proceeds going to help the family.
Landon served as honorary captain that day. Justin Mitchell, now a senior at Platte County and one of Landon’s biggest supporters at the school, hit a game-winning home run and dedicated the effort to his little buddy.
As the struggle with cancer continued, Landon received a visit from Kansas City Chiefs safety and cancer survivor Eric Berry. He participated in Sporting Kansas City’s Victory Project, receiving a chance to meet players and coaches as a special honoree at a game this summer.
Friends and family arranged a fundraiser at a softball tournament, sending the money back to the Jaros family.
The more I think back to all that happened, it’s hard to believe it all happened in just seven months. Seven months. Seven unfair months.
Many of us tried to stay involved and went through this ordeal with the family. Of course, not many of us can directly relate to what they truly endured, but I know my heart — our hearts — hurt so bad this week as we try to make sense of why Landon was taken from us.
When cancer is involved, you always know death is a possibility. You never want to believe it will be the reality.
The spirit Landon Jaros showed helped him reach so many people, and we are all better for having known him. I’m struggling to hold myself together as I sit here trying to quickly sort through my thoughts, and maybe more clarity will come at some point.
I really don’t know.
The words I keep coming back to at this moment came from Landon himself. He gave his dad some incredibly insightful advice about his early situation at Children Mercy’s Hospital, but it might best be applied to all of our lives moving forward.
“This is hard, but we aren’t going to live here forever.”
Ross Martin is publisher of The Citizen. He may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @Citizen_Ross.