Jaya is battling a brain tumor that affects many areas of her health. Today her team of specialists is working together to give her the care – and future – she deserves.

Child Health | 2 years ago

Jaya's Story: Finding Strength in Adversity

Jaya is battling a brain tumor that affects many areas of her health. Today her team of specialists is working together to give her the care - and the future - she deserves. 

When Jaya Thomas was 7 years old, a series of headaches, vision issues and unusual outbursts at school culminated in a discovery: The second-grader had craniopharyngioma, a rare brain tumor. 

Though this would be distressing news for anyone, it was heartbreaking for Jaya and her grandmother, Kym Jackson. Jaya’s own mother passed away from a brain aneurysm, and the little girl has seen a neurosurgeon for most of her life.

Jaya’s tumor was removed at Atrium Health’s Levine Children’s Hospital, and the surgery that saved her life also changed it forever. Jaya no longer has a hypothalamus in the brain, which controls everything from hunger to sleep, and the tumor also destroyed her pituitary gland, which plays a major role in growth and puberty.  

But Jaya’s fight against cancer didn’t stop there. Today, her tumor is back. “Though it’s under control, it’s continued to leave her with chronic, difficult medical conditions,” explains Chad Jacobsen, MD, one of Jaya’s oncologists. “Her courage in the face of these difficulties is what’s inspiring to me.”

The past few years haven’t been easy for Jaya and Kym. Through it all, they’ve found strength in prayer, each other and a care family they can always count on.     

Now 11 years old, Jaya struggles with things she never worried about before her brain tumor (and that most kids don’t ever worry about). 

Her body no longer makes the hormones necessary to perform basic functions, like growing, and won’t be able to start puberty on its own. She can’t tell when she’s full or had enough to drink, so she battles constant hunger that can’t be satisfied and thirst that can’t be quenched. Her cancer has impacted crucial parts of her brain, and she has a hard time controlling her emotions and remembering – so activities like reading and studying are more frustrating than ever. 

Jaya’s brain tumor has affected her life in almost every way, and treating it requires perfect timing and coordination. Now more than ever, her cancer and endocrine specialists are teaming up to give her the care – and future – she deserves. 

While her cancer team monitors the tumor’s growth and her endocrine team manages her hormones, Jaya and her grandmother find solace in the power of two things: prayer – and people. “Prayer does everything, and when you find the right team of people, that makes it better. Especially if you come to Levine Children’s Hospital, you have the right team – you do,” says Kym.

Through all the adversity, Jaya has a big heart and is continuing to dream, and one day, she hopes to become a caregiver herself, as a veterinarian. “She’s a fighter, so I believe she’ll become what she wants to become,” says Kym.

A fourth-grader, Jaya works hard to be more than her diagnosis, saying, “I struggle with anger issues and over-eating and drinking. I try my best to be a good girl.” If there’s anything you need to know about Jaya, it’s this: She’s a fighter, a dreamer – and one of the best girls we know.