BUTLER COUNTY, Ohio (FOX19) - The Butler County community is rallying around a teenager who is fighting brain cancer.
Although 2020 has been a tough year for RJ Almond, the 15-year-old continues to remain strong.
“We’ve been in the hospital off and on since January, like 127 days now,” Tamara Almond, RJ’s mother, said. “He just, he had this mindset of you know smiles, happy, I got this. It’s fine. It’ll be fine.”
In January, RJ’s life took a turn that no one saw coming. Tamara said the baseball-loving athlete started suffering from headaches. The pain was so severe that RJ opted out of playing baseball.
Not long after, RJ and his parents, Tamara and Richard Almond, say they got a diagnosis from doctors: RJ has brain cancer.
“At that moment, it just, it made my whole world stop,” Tamara said.
In the days and months since then, Tamara said they have been through a whirlwind of hospital visits, surgeries and treatments. Tamara said most recently, surgeons removed part of RJ’s brain tumor, and he has been at Cincinnati Children’s Liberty campus recovering.
Due to the operation, RJ currently has trouble communicating.
“After 18 hours of surgery, they got 65 percent of it, and then he’s undergone basically 15 rounds of radiation, and at this point, they have no other treatment plan,” Tamara said. “He can’t talk very much. He can’t respond. He can’t do anything for himself. He needs help to do everything.”
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tamara said that it has been difficult for RJ to spend time with loved ones, like his younger brother Dawlton.
“It is very difficult. I have to be strong for RJ, keep moving forward,” Tamara said. “I gotta keep strong for my other son at home.”
Through the ups and downs, the Almonds say they have felt an overwhelming amount of love. They started a Facebook page called “Rally for RJ” and have been amazed by the community response.
“You can get online at Cincinnati Children’s and do what they call E-cards, and they’ll print it out and they’ll bring it up, and RJ, they brought me up a stack one day, and they said that he had the largest stack they’d ever seen,” Tamara said.
People in the community have shown support for the Almonds in a number of ways. Tamara says some people have sold t-shirts and koozies for RJ, while his baseball teammates took photos with RJ’s jersey.
Ross Local Schools gave RJ a special shoutout, according to Tamara. She says local business owners have also planned fundraisers, and the Ross robotics club put together a pitching project inspired by RJ.
“We really, really, really appreciate everything from the community, people, friends, school administration,” Tamara said.
It is that kindness, combined with RJ’s positive attitude, that keeps the Almond’s focused on hope and on healing.
“He’s superman,” Tamara said. “He is definitely superman.”
Tamara said that there are numerous other things that people have done for them, including dropping off meals and making donations through a GoFundMe page.
She says they have learned they will have to renovate their home to make it wheelchair accessible for RJ.
A virtual fundraiser, hosted by Eli’s Sports Bar and Grill, will take place on Saturday, September 12 at 3 p.m. A Facebook event includes more details.
TKR Crafte Creations is currently selling T-shirts to benefit the Almonds.