Glen Burnie teen fights cancer far from home

He'll be honored this week during event in New York

January 26, 2003|By Dan Harsha | Dan Harsha,SUN STAFF

Fighting cancer is never easy. For Jay Barnett, a 14-year-old cancer patient from Glen Burnie, the battle is even harder because he's hundreds of miles from home.

Paying tribute to Jay's determined struggle against cancer, New York Rangers defenseman Brian Leetch will name him honorary team captain at the Ronald McDonald House of New York's Ninth Annual Skate with the Greats Wednesday at Rockefeller Center's ice rink.

Jay has been living at Ronald McDonald House in New York City for the past year while undergoing treatment at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center there for neuroblastoma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer that attacks the body's nervous system. He undergoes chemotherapy to help treat the disease three to five days a week.

"It's hard being away from home. ... The treatment is pretty exhausting," said Jay, who has had two operations and eventually is to undergo a bone-marrow transplant.

His mother, who left her job in Owings Mills, is staying with him at Ronald McDonald House, which provides subsidized housing for children and their families during cancer treatment.

"It's not easy. I left my job and regular life. This is my focus now, getting Jay better," Virginia Barnett said. "I feel being here in New York is the best thing for Jay."

The demanding schedule restricted Jay and his mother to four visits to Glen Burnie in the past year.

Though Jay hasn't been able to get home as often as he would like, he has had plenty of visitors, including friends from the Maryland State Boychoir, of which he is a member. The choir traveled to New York in March, threw him a surprise birthday party and sang for the residents of Ronald McDonald House.

"I'm real grateful to my friends and family back home," Jay said.

He and his mother don't know how much longer they will be in New York. He is eager to get back to Maryland, where he hopes to rejoin his Boy Scout troop and become an Eagle Scout.

"I can't wait to start Scouting," he said.

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