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Nov 15, 2016
I've played many roles in my life, son, brother, Captain Von Trapp, even homecoming king. But since June 24th I put on another role, cancer patient. It all started with a headache, then more headaches, and it got to a point where the pain was too excruciating for me to go another day without seeing a doctor. As my family and were heading to Carolina Imaging, I wasn't really worried, just thought I had a blood clot or something a prescription could fix. After my MRI I received a phone call asking for my parents and I to quickly return. Here is where fear crept in, at this moment I knew something was bad, and when my mother and I walked in, the workers seemed upset and the lady at the front desk is holding a phone. "Mr. Jones, ah I have some unfortunate news..there is a mass behind your brain" I became breathless as I dropped to the floor, my amazing mother helps me up and ask what was said. Tears began to flow as I tell her, expecting her to begin to cry, she pulls me in for a hug and tells me "It's going to be okay". We then sit down waiting for the results to be put on DVD and she begins to pray out loud, shortly after I feel another hand grasp my shoulder, I looked and it was a janitor, a complete stranger. After my mother says Amen, he looks me in the eyes, with tears in his own and encourages me to "Believe in the reason". Quickly after, my dad walks in and my mom informs him of the current event, and again I expected a form of emotion but the Lord truly blessed me with greatest parents. When I was flowing with emotions, they were determined to stay strong, at least in front of me. He pulls the car back up and we rush to the ER at the local hospital, and I tell them about my situation. Thankfully that was the one time the ER wasn't busy, so my name was called sooner than I expected, but I had to go alone. I knew my parents needed to be with each other at that time, it was my turn to stay strong. As my vitals were being checked, I began to sing a song that sprung on me in the recent months. As a child I adored the hymn, but also fell in love with Bethel's version of "It Is Well With My Soul". I first heard the modern version while studying during the second semester of my freshmen year of college, then saw the video when my girlfriend's family ordered the DVD series and played that song first, lastly my dear friend Abdul and I were church hunting and a fellow student, whom I never spoken to, sang it so beautifully as she closed the service. (Her name is Sara) This song just flowed through my spirit as I sat there and waited. Still shaken, however I knew that through it all, it is well with my soul. After my brief peace session, my name is called to be sent to a bed and perform other tests, again reunited with my parents. As we adjourn to the assigned room, I began to be filled with emotions and express them through tears and the shaking of my arms and legs. My mom informs me that my sisters are aware and that my girlfriend has also been told. I am then asked if I want to see the pastor that's on call, and by His grace it's my very own pastor, Dr. Wiley Hughes. A man I have known most of my life, and his presence gave me someone to vent to and a sense of calmness. After he leaves I see my little sister Ellen, and my girl Sarai. Trying to stay strong in front of two of the most important women in your life is tough, even tougher when they're both crying. But, at that moment I realized my first blessing, i'm the one going through this, not them or anyone else I love. My mom returns and we are informed that the neurosurgeon at UNC Hospitals accepted my case, and further action will take place there. As I walk out of the ER, I see a flood of family members, family friends, shoot there was people I didn't even know. All there to support my family and I as we begin this journey. Everybody had the same attitude, not one seemed worried but confident, as if they knew there was purpose behind this and I would okay. My family, Sarai, and I then drive to Chapel Hill and the whole ride was full of joy. If a stranger sat in during the drive, they would have never guessed what our situation was. As we park and enter the building at 3 A.M., I hear that song playing again in my head .."it is well". I check-in, WALK to the neuroscience ICU, and as I enter i'm asked if i'm John Jones. I say yes, but then I hear "You're the only patient I have ever seen to walk into this ICU" I began to chuckle, but most importantly I gained confidence and faith. I then put on the hospital gown, feel the brief pain of IV needles piercing my skin, odd stickers began to cover my stomach, and i'm set for another MRI. I fell asleep during the test, but when I woke up the nightmare was in fact reality. My surgery is in two days to remove the golfball sized tumor, until then I receive visitors that restore hope and bring joy. The big day comes, June 26th, 2016, during a 5 hour procedure my tumor was fully retracted. The joy of knowing I made it, tumor's gone, few days I will be back to normal. That was my mindset for a while, until I remembered a doctor talking about future radiation and chemotherapy. Even though satisfaction of knowing the tumor was gone, the fear of hearing "You have cancer" flooded my thoughts. Then, the next day, Monday out of all days, I am told that my tumor was not benign and it carried cancerous cells. So from thinking I was done to the mindset of "I'm dying", I didn't lose faith but I felt like an IPhone on 1%, needing that charge. All of a sudden this short, nerd-looking doctor walks in named Dr. Patrick Thompson. He tells me he will be my oncologist, and explains the diagnosis, Medulloblastoma, a rare pediatric cancer that is located in the cerebellum. This cancer usually occurs to kids around or below the age of 10, but since i'm 19 the case was a little bit more different. His title may say doctor, but to me he is a hero. He talked about the medical part, but he made sure he left the room with me feeling confident again. Thompson saw the fear in my eyes, but he reassured that if I fight and trust him, that we will defeat this. Even better was he asked personal questions to get to know me, and when he found out what I feel called to do, he lit up. The last thing he said before he left was "If you want to be in ministry, you must first realize there is reasoning behind this". A man I just met, left me feeling like Rocky on those steps. I got this. He tells me the usual treatment is 4 weeks of radiation and a year of chemotherapy, but he made a proposition. He mentioned a 6 week radiation scheme with 4 months of chemo, but each treatment has a much higher dosage. Is it tough? Sure. Is it inhumane? Yep. Did he believe I can do it? Of course. He knew the Lord would give me the strength to conquer these battles. On August 2nd, I began my 5 day a week plan of radiation for 6 weeks. Absolutely horrible, I lost 34 pounds, needed the assistance of a cane, shower chair, and constantly needed my caregiver next to me. Never have I felt so weak, tired, and hopeless, however on September 8th, when that part was done, I never felt stronger, determined, and confident. Next, was 6 weeks of no treatment, then 4 months of chemo. I started my first round of chemotherapy on October 28th and received my first stem cell transplant. My last round of chemo is scheduled for late January, with remission hopefully beginning near my birthday, February 26th. Never have I been this terrified but also found many more reasons to fight. There is a common phrase, "I'm carrying my city on my back", however in this case I'm carrying my family, my friends, my future ministry, and many other things on my back. I may be the one with brain cancer,but i'm not fighting this alone. If you didn't stop reading and are reading this, know that I'm fighting for you as well. Pastor Steven Furtick said it best, "Whether the cancer goes or the cancer stays, surely goodness and mercy will follow." Thank you for the prayers, donations, and love for my family and I. Please continue to pray for me as I intend to complete these treatments, and all of those who are effected by cancer. I pray that my story always brings awareness to pediatric bran cancer, and stem cell transplants. Thank you and God bless.