For the last two years, Jasper O’Briant has been undergoing chemotherapy treatments for cancer, making regular visits from his home in Jal, New Mexico to a children’s hospital in Lubbock, Texas.
The 16-year-old was diagnosed in October 2020 with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer that according to the National Institutes of Health, mostly affects fewer than 5,000 children and teenagers, especially teen boys, each year.
“It's just a really terrible thing to be honest,” Jasper told “Good Morning America.”
But even though his life has been tough lately, the teen has had his family by his side and recently, his father and older brother decided to do something extraordinary and show him how much they love and support him.
Jody O’Briant and his eldest son Nathan decided to get tattoos to match one of Jasper’s scars from surgery.
“We'd all been like, ‘Oh, that'd be something really cool to do together,’” Nathan recalled to “GMA.”
“I was fully on board when we had discussed it. It was never a second doubt in my mind as to what was going to happen there. It was something I wanted to do immediately for him,” he continued.
Jasper said he was touched by his family’s collective decision, considering none of his family members had ever gotten a tattoo before.
“I didn't get to choose to have [surgery] done to me. It was, to be quite frank, it was that or death. So I didn't get to choose and the fact that they chose to put something permanent on their body was very meaningful,” he said, adding that he thought “the idea was really awesome.”
O’Briant, who is a pastor at a Baptist church in Jal, said his tattoo, which runs along his left shoulder like Jasper’s scar, serves as a reminder of everything his son and his family have collectively gone through.
“As we age, sometimes we forget how hard life was, how good life was, and all the ups and downs, and I think that was kind of the neat thing, that we would remember some of these things,” the father of three said.
Nathan, a college student in Lubbock, agreed with his dad.
“I think we can try to push those thoughts out, those hard times out, like, we'll get through them and then not try to remember them again. But this is just a remembrance of that hey, we're through it now, we’re through those first hard few years,” he said.
Jasper told “GMA” he hopes by sharing his and his family’s story, he can shine a spotlight on the rare cancer he has and encourage more funding for osteosarcoma research, a sentiment echoed by his older brother.
“When you have such a striking tattoo such as this, people are going to ask, ‘Well, what's that for? Why do you have that?’ So it's just small little bits and pieces [I’m] able to share with people over time and this is just part of spreading that awareness,” Nathan said.
“If we can raise money for awareness for osteosarcoma, [it] would be the best thing because there's not a lot of money raised for it, for research or just telling people it's out there,” Jasper added. “It's a very real disease. A lot of times people forget that teenagers get cancer, too.”