Jace and family smiling thanks to St. Jude

Before his first birthday, Jace was battling a tumor on his spine.

Jace smiles on his mom, Jaime's lap. He's made tremendous progress since beginning recovery at St. Jude.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (KSNW) – Spend ten minutes with 18-month-old Jace Mathews and you can’t help but walk away happy.

“If it wasn’t for his smile, it would be so hard to get through the day,” mom, Jaime, told us.

That grin has been a constant source of comfort and optimism even when doctors delivered the news no parent wants to hear. His mom remembers when what they thought was scoliosis turned out to be much more.

“We finally got his MRI March 18th and he was paralyzed that same day because they found a 5-inch tumor in his spinal cord,” she said. “We didn’t want to think the worst, we always wanted to keep hope, but it was hard in the face of scientific fact.”

One month later, the Mathews family left behind their life at home and headed to Memphis. At St. Jude, your ticket to win the Dream Home helps families focus on their most important priority, their children. That means St. Jude not only covers the tremendous cost of treatment, but also food, travel, lodging and more.

“We didn’t have any income for a while, and they have taken a huge burden away,” Jaime said with a smile.

And their child life specialists also helped his five-year-old sister, Joy, make sense of a very confusing time.

“She gets to understand it at a better level so it’s less scary,” Jaime said.

No one’s needs are left behind, even as they focus on getting Jace healthy. His tumor has shrunk tremendously, and this vibrant little guy has made incredible progress in just a matter of months.

“The fact that in surgery he had no reflexes,” an emotional Jaime remembered, “no action below the tumor and now he’s not walking, but almost crawling and he can stand… it’s beyond belief, it’s miraculous.”

But those smiles are still contagious and there are plenty to go around as his family celebrates the difference St. Jude has made in their lives.

“It’s hard to imagine the nightmare until you’re sitting the chair,” Jaime said. “And I couldn’t imagine a place without St. Jude. It’s just amazing.”