Quincy Jones is an exceptional young man. Only 18 years old, he’s full of surprises. By nature he’s modest and unassuming, but to raise money for pediatric oncology, or entertain a sick child in the hospital, he’s liable let loose with riffs of dancing, Michael Jackson style. Usually he’s quiet and soft spoken, but he’s also capable of speaking out and telling his story with passion and conviction. Quincy is slender with dark hair, an engaging smile, and warm, brown eyes. He’s a talented athlete who loves basketball and gymnastics. Most of all he’s an inspiration and a role model to all teens who, like him, balance a life full of school, family, friends—and a diagnosis of cancer.
Quincy was in the 9th grade at Connections High School in Baltimore, Maryland, when he discovered he had cancer. At a routine physical exam in January of 2012, his pediatrician discovered a lump on Quincy’s side. Quincy felt fine, but a sonogram followed by a CT scan and biopsy revealed that the lump was a tumor. More tests led to a diagnosis of cancer, desmoplastic small round cell tumor, otherwise known as DSRCT. As Quincy’s mother Janean Blount says, “My world turned upside down.”
DSRCT is so rare, only around 200 cases have been known to exist. Treatment is difficult. Doctors don’t have a lot of information to rely on. Quincy’s Baltimore doctors decided to send him to Memorial Sloan Kettering, which had seen around 30 cases of the rare disease. Janean accompanied her son to New York for the initial evaluation. Quincy’s treatment would begin with a regimen of chemotherapy. Soon he was traveling back and forth to New York on the bus for his weekly treatments.
“No one in our family had ever had cancer,” Janean says. “We didn’t know what to expect.” But the Blount family is a strong one, with a supportive, caring network of relatives and friends. After Quincy’s first week in New York, his grandparents, aunts, and uncles stepped in to take him back and forth for his treatments so that Janean and Quincy’s stepfather Kelvin Blount could stay at home, tending to work and the rest of the family. “We had six proms in the months that Quincy was being treated in New York,” his mother says. “Two boys graduated and went to college.” They also had Quincy’s younger siblings to look after.
Dealing with such a difficult illness, along with separation from school and home, must have been difficult. Quincy just shrugs in his usual modest way. “That child never complained,” Janean says. “NEVER,” she repeats for emphasis. “He never got sick one day on the chemotherapy. All he wanted to do was help the other kids who were in the hospital, entertaining them, doing his Michael Jackson dances. He was a blessing to us and to a whole lot of other people.”
As the months went by, Quincy’s tumor began to shrink. By June the doctors were ready to perform surgery. “The surgery was supposed to take 14 hours,” Janean explains. “Instead it was over in a little over 4. That’s how much the tumor had shrunk. The doctors had never seen anything like it.” Quincy, as usual, surprised everyone with his determination and spirit. The very first day after surgery, he began walking laps around the ward. A second surgery followed in September, and then the Memorial Sloan Kettering doctors told the Blount family that Quincy was ready for the next phase of his treatment, radiation. Traveling back and forth to New York was taking a toll on the family, so the Kettering staff suggested Quincy continue his treatments in Baltimore, at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Janean will ever be thankful for the warm reception and good care she got in New York. Her experience at Johns Hopkins has been the same. After Quincy finished his radiation treatments, his Hopkins doctors decided he should have a Bone Marrow Transplant—the first one ever for DSRCT. Once again Quincy’s supportive, caring family came through for him, and his father stepped up to provide the marrow for Quincy’s transplant. “He’s my hero,” Janean says. “My father saved my life,” Quincy says in his quiet way.
Did cancer make Quincy grow up faster? “Kind of,” he admits. Through home schooling he finished 9th and 10th grades. Now he’s back at school, finishing the 11th grade. “It’s good to be back,” he says. He turned out for his 11th grade prom wearing a snappy white tux with a pink vest and pink bowtie to match his girlfriend’s pink taffeta dress. The two stayed out until 3 am. Janean didn’t worry one minute. “He’s a good kid,” she says with pride.
What would Quincy say to a family who just learned their child had cancer? “I will be there for you. I will support you, because I know what you’re going through. You’re not alone.” Janean adds, “Hold on. It gets worse before it gets better. Keep it together. Don’t fall apart and don’t quit. Do things as a family, take time to have fun, to laugh.”
This summer Quincy plans to work as a counselor at Camp Sunrise, the annual camp Johns Hopkins runs for children with cancer. “I like entertaining people. I like to keep them happy,” he says. The younger children look up to Quincy. They know he’s full of surprises. No matter what he undertakes in his life, there’s no doubt he’ll accomplish his goals.