PATRIOT — Josie Blazer, 4, of Patriot, is much like any other young girl in Gallia County.
She loves her family, playtime, candy, animals, being outside and her mother says she has a future dream of helping others with medical conditions. She is the daughter of James and Becky Blazer with a brother named Cooper.
“She’s a very independent little girl,” said Becky. “Strong-willed and has a strong mind.”
Part of what makes Josie different is her and her family’s determination to defeat a cancer, one first diagnosed in her right eye in September 2018. The condition is called retinoblastoma and fewer than 20,000 cases are documented in the US per year, according to the Mayo Clinic. It begins in the retina, which is made of nerve tissue that senses light in the eye. With retinoblastoma, when light is flashed in the eye, it can appear white.
Her mother said Josie previously had some vision in her eye at the time but not a lot. The family discovered her medical issue at her four-year wellness check.
“They did an eye vision test before sending us up here to Columbus to (Nationwide Children’s Hospital),” said Becky. “She actually has it in both eyes. They (recently) lasered her good eye and her doctor is pretty confident between the (chemotherapy) and the lasering that the other eye should be taken care of.”
Becky said the condition is typically found more often in younger children and that Josie is a little older for her diagnosis.
“I don’t know if she’s had it for a while but she had two, one big tumor and one small tumor in her right eye,” said Josie’s mom.
Josie started with intra-arterial chemotherapy, which consists of a drug being applied directly to her tumor.
“When they went to do the last treatment, they noticed that the cancer had spread in her eye to the gel-fluid part of her eye,” said Becky. “I guess there was no way for the (treating drug) to get to the tumor at that point. January 4, they took her right eye out and they started her on regular (systemic chemotherapy).”
Josie is roughly halfway through her second round of therapy. Three spots in her left eye also received laser treatment. The family said they feel confident between both treatment methods, her left eye should be fine. Her right eye is being tested for genetic mutations to make certain other cancers do not develop later in Josie’s life.
Members of the community have started reaching out to assist Josie and her family with benefit events. Drawings have been done among area businesses to support Josie. Recently, an auction was held at the Gallipolis AMVETS building Saturday and a benefit ride is anticipated to be held at Gary’s Place, informally known as “The Swamps” on April 13. Registration starts at 11 a.m. and participants are set to leave at noon. Dan McCarty is anticipated to perform later in the day. A DJ will also be present, prize drawings and an auction will also be held. Those participating in the ride will be charged $10 a person for the benefit.
A benefit musical performance was also held at Gary’s Place, Saturday evening, in Josie’s honor.
“It’s not just for bikes,” said event organizer Crystal Hughes. “It’s for jeeps, pickup trucks or whatever you want to bring. We don’t know how warm it will be. It will start and end here…Me and some of the others that work here, we went and set up a bank account for (donations) and are trying to get this whole thing pulled together.”
Hughes said Stephanie Lester and Heidi Ruggles were assisting with the organization of the ride.
Donations can be made at WesBanco in Gallipolis to be put toward Josie’s medical costs.
For more information, visit the Josie’s Journey Facebook page at www.facebook.com/josies.journey.75 or call Gary’s Place at 740-379-2986.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.