- Associated Press - Thursday, April 13, 2017

AMARILLO, Texas (AP) - Weston Richburg had signed just about everything he could on Saturday for Jayro Ponce - posters, shirts, caps. But there was at least one area he had not, one that Jayro himself requested.

The right side of his bronze bald head.

The Amarillo Globe-News (https://bit.ly/2p0zziu ) reports the New York Giants center from Bushland, Texas, back home for a little more than 24 hours, took the black marker and scrawled his autograph on the right side of the head of a grinning Jayro, complete with the “#70” at the end.

“That’s the first head I’ve ever signed,” Richburg said. “Boom - not bad for the first head, wouldn’t you say, Jayro?”

Jayro, 9, wearing a bemused smile, could only nod. The hairless head, which earlier had a New York Giants cap on top of it, was the side effect of his fourth of eight chemotherapy treatments.

The good days, like Saturday, have been few for the little boy from Follett, 150 miles northeast of Amarillo in the corner of the Texas Panhandle. One day, it’s almost Christmas in Angel Fire, New Mexico, and Jayro is complaining of a persistent stomach ache and can’t eat.

Two days after Christmas, he’s in Amarillo for surgery for what should be a routine appendectomy. But doctors did not expect to see what they did - a cancerous tumor. It is a rare cancer, a malignant rhabdoid tumor seen in only 0.1 to 0.2 percent of gastric cancers.

Chemotherapy treatments are every 21 days. For a third-grade boy who may not quite have the understanding of what he is confronting, he faces each day with uncommon humor.

“He’s hilarious. Jayro is 9 going on 30,” said Dr. Daniel Arsenault. “He makes everyone laugh. He’s a joy to take care of.”

Football is Jayro’s thing. He’s played flag and a little tackle and watched eighth-grade brother Jonathan last fall in junior high. But nothing reaches the heights of the New York Giants.

In the middle of Dallas Cowboys country, Jayro was officially smitten by the Giants when Odell Beckham made the one-handed circus catch on a Sunday night nationally televised game in November 2014.

“He made it with three fingers,” said Jayro, indicating the fingers in which the pass lodged.

Since then, it’s been the Giants. Big Blue all the time. It’s no surprise that meeting Beckham is on a Make-A-Wish list.

“He watches more than just the game - he keeps watching them on YouTube,” Laura said. “He watches the Giants 24/7. I know nothing about football. But he says, ‘You got to see this?’ I’ve said that I’ve seen it already, but he says, ‘You got to see it again.’”

Saturday morning, a long stretch limo brought Jayro, dad Filiverto, sophomore sister Pamela, Laura and Jonathan to Harrington Cancer Center. It’s normally closed on Saturday, but was open for them that morning.

Something was up. Everyone there knew it. Jayro knew it. He just didn’t know exactly what was up. But he waited for nearly an hour.

During that time, Jayro held court, saying he would like to marry his radiation therapist, that he missed his dog Lilly, that there are peacocks, chickens, ducks, pigs and a rooster in his backyard, and that he is his sister’s prom date on April 22. He already has his tux.

“All of her friends say that I’m going to look so cute in that tux that they are going to line up to dance with me,” Jayro said.

It was about that time an entourage came traipsing up behind Jayro - a wife, parents, a contingent of New York Giants team media, and one rather large 6-foot-3, 300-pound bearded fellow wearing a Texas Rangers cap.

“I’m Weston, Jayro,” Richburg said. “What’s up?”

Well, his spirits, for one. As Jayro said later, “I was thinking, ‘Holy Moly, I’m seeing Weston Richburg!’”

Richburg was in town from his offseason Phoenix home. A radiation therapist knew the Richburg family and called on the off chance he might soon be in town. For a little bit, he was, and was trailed by Giants media who were doing an offseason story on him.

Richburg apologized that he didn’t have Beckham in a bag for him, but had a lot of other items - a poster of Richburg celebrating a TD with Beckham, some hats, and one sign - “Giants - NY Pride” that he told Jayro the team touches in the locker room.

“There’s a lot of Cowboy fans around here,” Richburg said, “so you better let them know what we’re all about. Put this up on your wall.”

Richburg posed for pictures, and put up a somewhat-tight “Team Jayro” shirt and got his autograph. One of the New York writers, wearing a Giants windbreaker, gave the much-too-big item to Jayro, who didn’t mind in the least.

“This is very humbling to be put into a position to affect a person like this,” Richburg said. “If I can glorify God to a little boy who has gone through more than I have in my entire life, it’s pretty special. I think I’m doing what I’m supposed to do.”

And that head that Jayro says was not to be washed?

“Oh, he showered,” Laura said. “After a big day, he was stinking. It’s gone.”

Maybe so, but not the memory.

___

Information from: Amarillo Globe-News, https://www.amarillo.com

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