Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Gift That Gives Twice

Justin is in his twenties.  Justin is married with 2 very young children.  Justin is battling Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, a cancer of lymph tissue found in lymph glands, spleen, liver and bone marrow.  Justin needs help.

Justins's symptoms were first noticed in January 2010 -- a knot in his neck he thought was muscular.  But other symptoms began popping up and in July he went to a doctor who diagnosed him as having poor posture and prescribed muscle relaxing drugs.  Justin felt it was something more and insisted on a scan, which the doctor finally agreed to.  Only hours after the scan, Justin was contacted -- he said "his heart sank instantly".  Cancer was found on 4 spots on his spine, all but one rib, his jaw, stomach, neck and right leg.  Then began doctors appointments and tests -- LOTS of them.  He had 7 biopsies and started chemotherapy in September, ending in February.  The chemo was supposed to be 95% effective in curing or keeping a patient in remission -- Justin was one of the 5%.  Only 4 weeks after his last chemo treatment, he found a lump under his arm.  

Since the chemo had been ineffective, Justin's only treatment option was a stem cell transplant.  He would have to spend 100 days in the hospital and have someone with him 24 hours a day.  Justin's wife, Sarah, is a registered nurse and took an unpaid leave of absence from her job to stay by his side.  Sarah's sister moved across country to care for their children. 

The process began in August with 6 days of chemotherapy.  In September, Justin was declared to be in remission and his stem cells were harvested.  In October, he had 4 days of full body radiation, twice a day, followed by 2 days of high-dose chemotherapy, a treatment intended to kill all rapidly producing cells (bad and good).  The treatment resulted in severe side effects.  On October 26, Justin's stem cells were returned to his body to re-grow into his bone marrow.  There have been some ups and downs, but Justin is doing amazingly well!

This experience has been a journey of faith for Justin and for those around him watching.  But it's also been a journey marked by many needs.  Obviously Justin hasn't been able to work and Sarah hasn't been drawing a check.  It was necessary for them to continue to pay for health insurance (at $1400 per month - without the insurance, there couldn't have been a transplant) and of course, they have living expenses.  God has provided in many ways for them, but they still have needs.  $60,000 worth of needs.

On November 18, Justin's aunt (my close friend since Jr High) hosted a fundraiser.  There was a lasagne dinner along with a bake sale, craft sale and silent auction.  I was one of many who helped in some way (wanna know the power of networking?) and several thousand dollars were raised.  I invested all I could for the fundraiser -- several hundred dollars worth of my handmade jewelry, baked goods and other crafts.  But there is so much more needed and I still want to help.  

So today, I want to share an offer.  Nope, no special prices for my customers -- but 50% of all my Etsy sales from now until Dec 10 will go to help Justin.  If my customers are generous in their buying, together we can be generous in our giving.  The gifts they buy for others will give twice!  On Dec 12, I'll report back here to let you know what we were able to raise.  Thank you in advance for anything you can do!!!

Justin and Sarah have expressed their gratitude to the many who have helped:  "We had no income and no savings.  Everything we needed, God had to provide.  It was only due to other people's generosity that we were able to survive the last few months.  We were in an impossible situation.  It's very hard for me to put into words how much this benefit means to our family -- to see our friends, family, church and community support us is something that I haven't found appropriate words for.  Knowing that people are sacrificing their hard earned money in times like this to support my family is so humbling.   I could never have imagined being in a position where my livelihood was dependent on the generosity of others.  It is truly amazing to see how selfless, even complete strangers, have been during this time. We are truly blessed by everyone involved."