CLEARWATER, Fla. — Of everything Kaitlyn McCallum worried about when she first became a mom, what actually became her biggest hurdle had never crossed her mind. 

What You Need To Know

  • James McCallum was born with a giant melanocytic nevus on his back

  • Doctors were initially puzzled by the scabby, hairy mole or birthmark 

  • A specialist in Chicago is now in the process of removing the non-cancerous nevus

  • James, now 2, is thriving despite enduring multiple surgeries 

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“You think, ‘Oh, it’s going to be the lack of sleep, it’s going to be every-two-hour feedings, it’s going to be the price of diapers nowadays,’” McCallum said.

Instead, with her first-born son James, it was a word she had never even heard of before: A ‘nevus.’

Though it took doctors a few months to realize it, James was born with a giant melanocytic nevus on his back. It was a very large mole or birthmark that stretched from the nape of James’ neck three-quarters of the way down his back.

It wasn’t cancerous, but it was scabby, hairy and cumbersome. It also impeded James’ mobility and his ability to sleep on his back.

Kaitlyn and her husband, Tim, connected with a specialist in Chicago. That doctor began the lengthy process of surgically removing the nevus, then attempting to replace the bad nevus skin with expanded good skin.

We first met James, Kaitlyn and Tim at their house in Clearwater. They marveled at how James, who had earned the nickname ‘Ninja Turtle Boy’ in stories about him, seemed like the happiest kid in the world, despite what was growing on his back.

James went as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle for Halloween. (Spectrum News)

When we checked back with the trio in November, James’ parents were still amazed.

“The fact that he wakes up with a smile on his face the day after surgery is the most wonderful and insane thing to me,” Kaitlyn said.

“I think my son shows tremendous perseverance and strength,” Tim added.

James, now two years old, has endured three surgeries so far and might need a fourth. But doctors feel confident they can remove the nevus entirely, ultimately leaving James with just a scar. Right now, he’s just tackling the life of a normal toddler.

“No impact at all,” Kaitlyn said. “It’s business as usual. It’s remarkable.”

James also has a new role ahead: big brother. Kaitlyn is pregnant with another boy. Though the nevus is not genetic – there are no increased odds James’ baby brother will have one – Kaitlyn and Tim briefly worried about what to do if this happened again.

Then they realized they know what to do: Like James, just keep smiling and solve the problem – even if it’s one you’ve never heard of before.