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Jack Fried pushes on

by: Jonathan House, Jack Fried's mother, Hadley, puts a damp cloth on her son's forehead. Jack and his family recently learned that the cancer the 8-year-old had beat twice before has returned.

These days, Jack Fried occupies himself by watching the Cartoon Network's 'Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends' or reading from his favorite book, 'The Wump World,' which features Dr. Seuss-like creatures.

Nearby, in his family's living room where he's taken up residence, an elaborate Star Wars droid Lego set (featuring an estimated 2,300 pieces) stands guard, its construction the labor of hours of work by his uncle.

In the evening, whatever Jack wants for dinner, Jack usually gets.

On a recent Friday it was the Loco Moco platter, a favorite from a local Hawaiian restaurant with an entrée that includes sticky rice, hamburger patties, beef, yummy gravy and a poached egg on the top.

Earlier in the week Jack ordered from a teriyaki place.

'I get the beef noodles with vegetables,' he said.

Jack, you'll recall, is the 8-year-old Cedar Mill Elementary School student who has been battling rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer.

Having spent so much of his young life at Doernbecher Children's Hospital (he was first diagnosed with cancer when he was entering kindergarten in 2004) Jack decided last spring that he wanted to give something back and helped launch a fund-raising coin drive to purchase Radio Flyer plastic wagons.

His second grade class officially presented eight of the $130 wagons to the hospital last spring, allowing young patients to carry their belongings in and out of the hospital.

But recently, Jack and his family received the bad news that he's losing his battle with cancer.

'Nov. 29, Jack was cancer free,' said Hadley Fried, Jack's mother. 'As of Dec. 17, we found out he couldn't walk anymore.'

Hadley said although her son has beat cancer on two previous times, it has returned and is rapidly spreading.

'That's the thing, I knew if it came back … I don't know what to say it would be (final),' said Hadley. 'But I was hoping for a miracle. Another miracle.'

Still, Hadley is buoyed by what her son has been able to accomplish in such a short period of time.

'It's amazing the difference he's made in this world in eight years,' said Hadley Fried. 'He's done more than I've done.'

Last spring, Jack was named the Children's Miracle Network's Champion Child for the state of Oregon. The honor included a trip back to Washington D.C., followed by a trip to Disney World in Orlando.

While in Washington, Jack met with Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Gordon Smith before having lunch at the White House with the president, an event Hadley said she'll long remember.

'President Bush put his head on Jack's and said, 'you're a good man,'' Hadley recalled.

Though not a big Bush supporter, Hadley said she was touched by the gesture.

The family, which includes Jack's sister, Ivy, 4, and his father, David, also got a tour of the White House.

'It was wonderful,' said Hadley. 'Super wonderful.'

A short time later, the Frieds joined other Children's Miracle Network's Champion Children aboard a chartered plane headed for Disney World for a trip Jack thoroughly enjoyed.

Hadley said nothing has impressed her more over the years than the care Jack has received from Doernbecher doctors and staff. She said Dr. Thomas Lamkin, a noted pediatric oncologist, came to the hospital in the middle of the night when Jack had surgery last month.

'That was very touching and amazing,' she said. 'They care so much, it's amazing. (Jack's) not just another number or patient.'

Hadley said not only has Jack made lots of young friends at Doernbecher, but has ended up befriending older folks as well.

Those include both Dr. Brian Druker, who developed the cancer-fighting drug Gleevec, and Howard Hedinger, a Portland businessman and Doernbecher benefactor.

'For some reason they have a connection with Jack,' Hadley said. 'They just love him.'

She recalls that during one conversation with Drucker, he asked, 'What can I do for you?'

'You can find a cure for rhabdomyosarcoma,' was her reply. Druker told her he's working on it.

When Hedinger couldn't attend a recent Doernbecher auction to raise funds for a more child-friendly emergency room (the businessman was at a similar event at Dove Lewis Emergency Animal Hospital), it was Jack who Hedinger asked to stand in for him. Jack even got to hold up the sign for a $50,000 Doernbecher auction bid, said Hadley.

Meanwhile, Hadley said the entire Cedar Mill community and Cedar Mill Elementary School have been extremely supportive of Jack with teachers and staff having gone above and beyond in their concern for her son.

'I'm utterly touched by the outpouring of support from the community,' said Hadley.

On the evening of Christmas Day, the Frieds found carolers on their porch singing and holding candles.

'It was just so beautiful,' said Hadley. 'It was snowing then.'

And the cards of support keep coming as well, 'trillions and zillions' by Hadley's account.

On Friday, Hadley unwrapped a package addressed to Jack filled with goodies. She didn't' even know who sent them.

So many friends and school buddies have dropped by that Hadley has had to put up a sign at the front of her driveway asking for 'no visitors' on some days. She removes the 'no' on days when Jack is feeling better.

Meanwhile, Jack said he was enjoying being in the third grade at Cedar Mill Elementary School and likes his teacher, Susannah Fennell.

'She's cool,' he said.

He also has had fun in his P.E. class.

'You get to play better games in P.E. (this year),' he pointed out.

A fund has been set up in Jack Fried's name at all branches of U.S. Bank.

Meanwhile, Hadley said Jack is a tough kid who even refuses to take his pain medication. She said she's continually amazed at his insight into life and living.

'He's a wise soul,' said Hadley. 'He knows more than most people and he's only eight.'