4 out of 4 stars
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Don't Quit: The Jason Merkle Story is the true narrative of a remarkable young man's battle against terminal brain cancer by Kyle S. Reynolds. After Jason's first symptoms of hand tremors at the age of thirteen, a CT scan revealed excess fluid on his brain. Jason's mother took him to the hospital and insisted that her son receive an MRI. Halfway through the process, Jason was rushed to emergency surgery. The surgeon revealed that Jason's extreme hydrocephalus was due to blockage in the brain stem caused by a fingertip-sized benign tumor. Because it was at the base of the brain stem, the tumor was inoperable. During the emergency surgery, a tubular shunt was placed in Jason's head to "divert fluid away from the brain." In the following months, Jason's family consulted with several doctors; the consensus was that the tumor would probably remain benign. However, within six months, the shunt had to be replaced. Seven years later, his annual MRI revealed that the tumor had become malignant. The doctors gave Jason a prognosis of two to twelve months; he was only twenty. In this inspirational story, Reynolds shares Jason's courageous and positive attitude during his journey, his family's decision to seek alternative treatment, and their faith in God for healing.
The 168-page book is beautifully written, free from profanity, and exceptionally edited. Reynolds masterfully conveys the physical symptoms that Jason suffered and his family's relentless efforts to provide him with the best possible care. The family's faith played a major role in every step of their journey, but Reynolds also details their wise approach to seeking treatment for their son. For instance, they consulted well-known hospitals such as MD Anderson, Johns Hopkins, and Henry Ford Brain Tumor Center. While each "proposed a different recipe" of chemotherapy and radiation for Jason, none offered hope for his long-term survival. Jason's family concluded: "...there was absolutely no hope in going to any of these centers. None of these places had any record of survivors who had a condition similar to Jason's, except one: the Burzynski Clinic in Houston, Texas." Throughout the book, Reynolds poignantly shared each step of Jason's alternative treatment and also included the family's prayers and scriptural references.
There is a lot I liked about this heartwarming story. I particularly appreciated Reynolds’ honest portrayal of the rollercoaster of emotions Jason's family experienced as a result of his diagnosis, their decision to seek alternative treatment, and the doubts they wrestled. I also enjoyed Reynolds’ inclusion of stories that illustrated Jason's character as someone who exuded positivity and loved to play pranks on his brothers and friends. Additionally, the book's conclusion was written by Jason, who eloquently shared his gratitude and encouraged readers to live by faith.
There isn't anything I dislike about the book, but I will caution sensitive readers that portions are difficult to read. Reynolds doesn't sugarcoat Jason's illness, and understandably, there are references to his suffering, changes in his body, and bodily fluids.
I am pleased to rate Don't Quit 4 out of 4 stars. The frequent references to Jason's faith will primarily appeal to Christian readers. However, due to his family's successful approach to trusting their core beliefs and seeking alternative cancer treatments, the book may appeal to a larger audience. On the other hand, readers who dislike references to God and scriptures will probably prefer to pass on this one.
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