Nine-year-old Jacob Thompson from Portland, Maine, has been fighting neuroblastoma cancer since he was 5. The treatment proved to be unsuccessful and the disease has spread to the child’s head and hip. 

Thompson’s father Roger Guay said, “Jacob loves Christmas," according to 11Alive.com. To make his wish come true, Jacob’s family has planned to celebrate Christmas next weekend as they fear he might not make it till the actual day. His hospital room in Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Maine will be decorated with a Christmas tree, lights and some fake snow. A Santa Claus will also make an appearance with presents and cards to make the boy’s day extra special.

"He loves cards from all people," Guay said, according to WCSH-TV. "He's also a typical 9-year-old boy. He wants iTunes cards. He plays this game Sim City where he builds an entire city and he can use his iTunes cards to buy gems, which helps the process move a little faster." 

According to Jacob’s mother Michelle Thompson Simard, his motto is "live like a penguin." She told the GoodHousekeeping.com, the child claimed this means to be friendly, stand by each other, go an extra mile, jump into life and be cool.

She said, “Jacob loves the holiday season and we want him to know that Christmas wishes come true and that there are good people who care all around the world.”

Neuroblastoma is a type of cancer that starts in certain very early forms of nerve cells found in an embryo or fetus. It most often begins in the adrenal glands, which are on top of the kidneys and can also form in nerve tissue in the neck, chest, abdomen, or spine.

The disease generally occurs in children below 5 years of age. Sometimes it forms before birth and could be detected during a routine pregnancy ultrasound. In children aged 6 months or younger, the disease sometimes goes away without treatment. Often, it is only found after the tumor begins to grow and cause signs or symptoms. By the time it is diagnosed, the cancer would have spread to other parts of the body.

Just like any other type of cancer, the cause of neuroblastoma is unknown and it is not infectious.

The symptoms of the deadly disease vary depending on where the child’s neuroblastoma tumour is. 

  • If the tumour is in the abdomen, the child’s tummy may be swollen and they may complain of constipation or have difficulty passing urine.
  • If it affects the chest area, the child may be breathless and have difficulty swallowing.
  • If the tumour occurs in the neck, it is often visible as a lump and occasionally affects breathing and swallowing.
  • Sometimes, there are deposits of neuroblastoma in the skin, which appear as small, blue-colored lumps.
  • If the tumour is pressing on the spinal cord, children may have weakness in the legs and walk unsteadily. They may also have constipation or difficulty passing urine.
  • The child may be found to have high blood pressure.
  • Very rarely, children may have jerky eye and muscle movements and general unsteadiness associated with neuroblastoma.

However, there are vague and non-specific symptoms such as tiredness, paleness, loss of appetite, weight loss, bone pain and generalized discomfort.

According to the American Cancer Society, neuroblastoma is the most common form of cancer in infants. It accounts for about 6 percent of all cancers in children. There are about 700 new cases of neuroblastoma each year in the United States and this number has remained static for many years.