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Local youth continues cancer battle

Treatment results in problems requiring multiple reconstructive surgeries

June 9, 2012
by SHAUNNA DUNDER HERSHBERGER - Lifestyles Editor ( , Times Leader

ST. CLAIRSVILLE - When her son, JC Zamora, was diagnosed with cancer, Dana Kovach knew the road to his recovery would be tough. However, what she and her family didn't bank on was this: the treatments that fought his cancer resulted in multiple problems that require JC to undergo several reconstructive surgeries.

JC, now a 12 year old student at Bellaire Middle School, was diagnosed with stage 3 rhabdomyosarcoma when he was only three years old. Rhabdomyosarcoma is a cancer of the muscles that are attached to the bones. While it can occur in many places in the body, the most common sites for rhabdomyosarcoma are the structures of the head and neck, the urinary or reproductive organs, the arms or legs, and the chest or abdomen.

In order to treat the disease, JC underwent rigorous chemotherapy and aggressive radiation therapy. "JC is an extraordinary young man," his mother said. "He loves art and is a very talented. JC fought and won the battle against cancer. He has been fighting now for eight years." She said her son overcame every single obstacle thrown his way during treatment.

Article Photos

Photo provided
JC Zamora, right, stands with his brother, Jack. JC was diagnosed with cranial osteoradionecrosis, a condition which causes bones treated with radiation to become brittle and die. As a result, he must undergo several reconstructive surgeries to his skull, eye, ear and sinuses. His family is holding a Celebrity Server benefit to help pay for medical expenses on Tuesday, June 19 from 5 to 9 p.m. at Undo’s in St. Clairsville.

Unfortunately, the side effects of the aggressive treatment have taken their toll. JC has now been diagnosed with cranial osteoradionecrosis, a condition which causes the bones treated with radiation to die off and become extremely brittle. As a result of this condition, JC has lost a majority of his teeth, is blind in the right eye, and deaf in the right ear. His pituitary gland, damaged from radiation, can no longer make hormones, so JC also must receive hormone therapy.

So far, JC has received two treatments for his osteoradionecrosis at the Cleveland Clinic. However, beginning in July, he will undergo several extensive surgeries. One surgery will replace a part of his skull. In addition, his eye will be removed and replaced with a prosthetic, and his ear will be surgically repaired to hopefully recover his hearing with the use of a hearing aid. His sinuses, also affected by cancer and treatment, will be removed. Finally, JC will undergo a stem cell transplant to help reverse the degeneration of his bones.

Dana and her husband, Matt, and JC's father, Juan C. Zamora of Norfolk, Va., have medical insurance, but all of the expenses are not covered. Insurance will not cover all of the surgical costs, the hearing aid, the false teeth, or the cosmetic part of the prosthetic eye surgery. In addition to medical costs, JC and his family will travel back and forth from Cleveland, incurring fees for parking, gas, food, lodging and other similar expenses.

In order to help pay for JC's surgeries, his family and friends are throwing a special Celebrity Server benefit on Tuesday, June 19 from 5 to 9 p.m. at Undo's in St. Clairsville. "In his eight years of this battle, we've never had a benefit for JC, but the financial strain is getting so tough," Dana said.

In addition to the benefit, the family has also set up a website at for tax deductible donations. In the "Find a Fundraiser" box, simply enter JC Zamora and you will be directed to his page. Thanks to donations so far, the family has raised approximately ten percent of their $5,000 goal.

According to Dana, JC seems to be taking everything in stride. She said that in a way, it seemed easier for him as a small child to deal with his treatments. Now that he's older, he's beginning to realize that he can't do everything the other kids are doing. "He feels restricted," Dana said. "He'll ask me things like, 'Can I sign up for basketball camp?' and of course he can't, and it breaks my heart."

When she asks him if he feels ok, he always tells her he feels fine. "He doesn't show pain to me," she remarked. "He's not afraid of losing his eye. He just doesn't want any more pain."

Dana said that she and her family is very thankful for anyone who has donated and also for those planning to attend the fund raiser on June 19 at Undo's. She does not like that her child has to "go through all of this because of 'treatment'."

"I feel for anyone who has ever had radiation," she said.

Hershberger can be reached at



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