Hi, this is NOT Jennifer. This is Jennifer’s Dad. As I was going through my storage I found many photos of the last 15 months. I didn’t know if I should bring all this up again, but in a conversation with Jennifer she said that if we made it weird, then it really would be weird. She encouraged me to not only bring up some of the pictures, but to share some of my thoughts about what has happened in the past many years.
I first learned of Justin’s cancer in a phone call from Jennifer in the Summer of 2013. I immediately called a friend of mine who is an oncologist at the University of Colorado. Justin’s cancer turned out, at least initially, to be a rather generic germ-cell tumor in his chest. The cancer was very susceptible to chemo therapy and we had great reason to be optimistic. Plus, I consider myself a deeply Christian person, and I had every confidence that God would bless us as we had worked to devote our lives to him (by the way, I believe He did bless us, but will save that for a future post).
During those first months I watched Jennifer and Justin as they fought so hard. We (and they, I expect) had every expectation that they would beat this, which they did for many years. Our family rallied around them. I’ll never forget receiving pictures from my granddaughter as she worked to fight the cancer late in the fall of 2013!!!!!
Justin and Jennifer worked hard to make life as normal as they could. That included Thanksgiving meals together
And as many trips together as we could find the time for. In retrospect, I can feel of Justin’s courage as I write this. I know that for a time after his initial treatment he felt a bit better, but I don’t think he ever felt wonderful. But, his sole goal was to help make my daughter feel safe and secure.
I know the process wasn’t easy for Jennifer either. Justin’s treatments were horrible, and all the while she had to still keep working as a 4th grade elementary school teaching. In going through these pictures I found this photo of Jennifer and some of her 4th graders. I’m still not sure who is the teacher and who is the 4th grader! 🙂
Still, she kept it together, and for a time, we forgot about cancer. That seems so long ago and almost impossible. But, for a time, we felt like this would pass and we would get some normality to our lives. But, that was not to be.
After a year or so of some normalcy, Justin going back to school and Jennifer working, we found that the cancer had come back and was starting to take over his chest. We hoped that what we saw in the chest was just fluid, and that we could drain it off. But, that was not to be. One does not need to be a doctor to see where the growth in Justin’s chest was going.
As the treatments started again, Justin kept a good face on the topic. I honestly don’t know how he could have. He is easily the most brave human being I have ever known. Even in light of all this, he worked to do what he needed to do with the treatments and fight as hard as he could.
I was pleased to be in town periodically and to be able to take him in for exams every once in a while!
As the treatments intensified Justin had to spend more and more time in the hospital. Many of these times were just horrible experiences for he and Jennifer. I know that he tried to be positive so that she would not worry, but at times like this, it was hard to put a good face on the situation. It had been a few years since his first diagnosis, and we knew that the cancer had spread into his chest, but we still had hope for the future. Part of that, I am sure, is that the alternative of having hope is just not acceptable. What other option is there? I will never forget the hope and courage Justin and Jennifer had through this process.
Justin and Jennifer as he prepares for yet another surgery. At this point, every time he went in we knew that there was a possibility that we would not see him again. This photo takes on special meaning given that circumstance.
As Justin got done with surgery, again, and we worked to create a treatment plan we looked for any point of happiness that we could share. One of them, for Justin and I specifically, was food. He is a man after my own heart with regard to food!! So, we would take pictures of particularly good meals and send them to each other. I found one such picture in my recent search.
After his surgery we again worked to find a way to treat and get past this. We worked hard to find every protocol and every treatment option. But, on Valentines Day 2018 Justin was admitted to the University of Utah Hospital. It was an emotional day. My next post will take you through Justin’s stay in the hospital.