For six years, Wendy Weidberg has lived with breast cancer and its debilitating treatments, lived with the heartbreak and lived with the false dawn of brief remission. The cancer is back now, and Weidberg, a 47-year-old former lawyer, is in what her oncologist Dr. George Sledge calls “the fight of her life.” Yet she isn’t alone. She has her husband, Benjamin, 50, by her side, and her 18-year-old triplets, David, Abby and Talia. She has her 12-year-old son, Jonathan. And she has Jonathan’s mice.
Jonathan, a seventh grader at Clay Junior High School in Carmel, Ind., a suburb of Indianapolis, has raised $9,000 in the last four years to buy the specially bred $40 mice that Dr. Sledge and other researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine use to test potential cures for his mother and other breast cancer patients. He runs the Jonathan Mouse Fund out of the Weidberg home, writing letters, sending thank-you notes and making flyers to stuff into neighbors’ mailboxes. In lieu of gifts for his July bar mitzvah, he asked for donations. “It’s kind of like an awakening,” he says of his mother’s illness. “I’ve learned a lot about the value of life.”
For Wendy Weidberg, now undergoing experimental oral chemotherapy, Jonathan’s efforts are an important part of her battle. “I’m just very proud of him,” she says. “He’s already learning at his age about giving back. There’s only so much we can do in our lives to help others, but this is one of those ways.”