McGregor boy’s strength through cancer fight inspires family, community

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“It’s inspiring to see him go through it and be positive,” said Misty Jones of her 9-year-old son, Shaun Mohs, who is battling cancer for the second time. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

Shaun Mohs is a 9-year-old boy from McGregor with an infectious laugh and as his mom, Misty Jones, describes, an old soul. 

“He’s a grandpa,” she said with a loving smile. “He’s very sincere and wise beyond his years. He gets along with everyone.”

He’ll challenge anyone to a card game and enjoys creating art, swimming, fishing and playing sports. His favorite color is red. At school, spelling and math interest him most.

Shaun is also an inspirational rallying point for many in the local communities. For the second time in his young life, he is battling a brain tumor.

The first tumor was diagnosed in April 2009, when Shaun was 2.5 years old, said Misty. He was vomiting all the time, but trips back and forth to the doctor hadn’t yielded a cause. After Easter weekend, when Shaun woke up and couldn’t walk, a visit to a doctor finally found the tumor through a CT scan.

“It was an aggressive tumor, so we had to treat it aggressively,” Misty explained.

Surgery removed 90 percent of the tumor and Shaun also had a stem cell transplant. For every day from May through October of that year, he had treatments of high-dose chemotherapy. Shaun had to shower every four hours, she detailed, as the chemo was so intense it could seep through his skin and burn him.

Fortunately, the chemo killed the tumor, Misty said.

“It’s still there; it’s just dead,” she noted, adding that, in the proceeding years, doctors have routinely monitored the tumor to make sure it doesn’t grow.

Some of the aftereffects have been rough, though. Shaun’s eyesight and hearing were weakened. He also developed diabetes after the tumor messed with his pituitary gland and, thus, his ability to know if he’s hungry or thirsty. A shunt was needed to drain fluid from his brain.

Misty said receiving the diagnosis was a shock.

“It took a long time for me to come to terms,” she admitted, noting that her family has been an amazing source of support through it all. “Now, it’s become our normal.”

In January, during one of Shaun’s regular MRI check-ups, another tumor was found, this one much smaller than the first, Misty said. They hoped to do surgery to get a biopsy of the tumor, determining if it was slow- or fast-growing, but couldn’t get enough of it. Eventually, they determined it was slow-growing.

Misty said Shaun will start chemo on Wednesday. He’ll have treatment in Rochester weekly for one year.

Since the second tumor was found in January, Misty said she’s received an outpouring of support. Her co-workers at Peoples State Bank, where she has worked for four years, sold neon green “Beat the Odds” T-shirts and surprised Misty by wearing them one day. A post on Facebook about the event was liked by over 200 people and shared 56 times.

“I have a lot of good friends there. We’re close and care about each other and our families,” she said. “It’s nice to know they’re not just co-workers, that you have their support.”

Misty said the bank is also flexible with her schedule.

In addition, some of Misty’s friends outside work sold “Shaun Strong” T-shirts throughout the MFL MarMac community.

“It’s nice to know how much people care,” she said, adding that cards have also come in from people she barely knows.

Shaun appreciates the support, too. During the interview last week, he noted that, on Thursday, the teachers at MFL MarMac Elementary, where he is in third grade, wore the shirts, making him laugh.

Misty said, if Shaun isn’t feeling well enough to make it to school after chemo, his teacher offered to stop at their home and help with his coursework.

Although the tumors and treatment have taken their toll, and Shaun doesn’t always grasp what’s going on, Misty said he remains in good spirits, giggling and having a good time. The key is to stay optimistic, she said.

“It’s inspiring to see him go through it and be positive. He gets through it and doesn’t let it take over,” she stated. “It shows you how strong someone can be at such a young age.”

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