Overcoming it all

Frankfort's Yocum has gone through a lot, but is still going strong

By Linda Younkin Published:

Frankfort High junior Jayne Yocum has been dealing with health issues all her life, but they reached a crisis point last spring.

A brain tumor required surgery last summer, and three days later Yocum was attending basketball camp.

“Nothing stops her,” said her mother, Julia Harmon-Yocum.

This year Yocum has been a four-sport athlete for the Lady Panthers, and she was recently named to the Tom Leach All-Resilient Team, which is formed annually to recognize student-athletes in Kentucky who have shown resiliency in their lives.

Yocum and the other 22 team members will be recognized at a dinner Thursday in the PNC Ballroom at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in Louisville.

It’s an honor she’s taking in stride, just like she does with most events in her life.

“I go with the flow with everything,” Yocum said. “Coach will ask me where our game is today, and I say I don’t know. I just get on the bus and go.”

Yocum was born with hypothalamic hamartoma, a rare brain tumor that can wreak havoc with hormone levels.
“It causes epilepsy and all the symptoms she’s had,” Harmon-Yocum said.

Last spring, during spring break in Florida, Yocum developed hemorrhaging due to hormonal imbalances that doctors couldn’t stop. She spent 10 days in the intensive care unit and received eight blood transfusions.

Surgery had been ruled out years earlier because the tumor was close to the optic nerve.

“In the ICU it was a different set of doctors and they said it looked like she was ready for cyber knife,” Harmon-Yocum said.

In July Yocum underwent surgery at Louisville CyberKnife at the James Graham Brown Cancer Center.

“I wanted real brain surgery where I could keep the tumor in a jar,” she said, “but they thought that was a bad idea.”

Instead Yocum had laser surgery, wearing a mask that was attached to her bed so she couldn’t move her head.

“They had 100ths of a millimeter to play with on either side of the tumor before they’d run into the optic nerve, pituitary gland or the brain stem,” said Yocum’s father, Mac Yocum.

Jayne’s biggest concern before surgery?

“That I’d lose my vision,” she said.

“They were a pretty confident group of doctors,” her mother said, “and they made her feel at ease and comfortable.”

The procedure, which lasted four hours, was performed on a Wednesday. On Saturday Yocum was attending the High Exposure Basketball Camp in Louisville.

She hasn’t slowed down since.

This school year Yocum has played volleyball, basketball and tennis, and she is a long jumper and triple jumper for the FHS track team.

She’s been active her entire life in spite of the tumor, which was discovered when she was diagnosed with precocious puberty at 2 years old.

Yocum received injections to stop the pituitary gland from producing growth hormones until she was 14, but she began having seizures. After her freshman year at Western Hills, Yocum transferred to FHS to be closer to her mother, who is an art teacher at Frankfort High.

“I lose my memory and feel like I’m going to pass out, black out,” Yocum said about the seizures. “I don’t shake or anything.

“I had one during a game and I didn’t remember what I was doing. I didn’t remember where I was or who anyone was. They wouldn’t let me play after that, and I was a little mad about that. I wanted to play.”

Basketball is her favorite sport and the one she would like to play in college.

Yocum, a 5-11 post player, was named to the all-tournament team at the 11th Region All “A” Classic this year. She is also an excellent student with a 3.8 grade-point average.

She spent this spring break making five college visits.

After surgery last summer Yocum had some swelling of the brain that caused headaches, and she has those from time to time.

“I get headaches, and I get real tired,” she said. “I go to bed earlier than most kids do so I’m not tired the next day. And I take a lot of Tylenol.”

But things are getting better. After seeing doctors every month after her surgery, her visits are now every three months, and doctors have cut down on her epilepsy medication.

Yocum hasn’t had a seizure in a year.

“She’s a pretty strong backbone for our family,” Harmon-Yocum said. Jayne is one of four children.

“Sometimes the kids are complaining about something, and I ask them about what Jayne has gone through, and they say ‘Oh, yeah.’

“It puts things in perspective, and you figure out which things are a lot more important.”

And it’s taught Yocum a valuable life lesson at an early age.

“Just do what you’ve got to do to get through the day,” she said, “and do what you love because you don’t know how many days you get to do it.”

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  • I'd say we can all learn a lot from Jayne.