I started writing and blogging at the Testicular Cancer Awareness Foundation back in 2014. Kim Jones (bottom right) founded this non-profit out of her home in 2009 after her son, Jordan's, testicular cancer diagnosis in 2007, at the age of 13. Jordan had very advanced stage testicular cancer, and was very lucky to beat his cancer the first time, but miraculously recovered. Jordan lived an amazing life, but his cancer tragically returned in 2015, just short of seven years after he had beaten it the first time. He fought for a year, but there was nothing to stop it, and Jordan left our world on June 8th, 2016. He was just 22 years old. I traveled to Grand Junction, CO for Jordan's Celebration of Life, and delivered this 10 minute long eulogy on behalf of Jordan and the Jones family.
My name is Steve Pake, and I am from the Washington, D.C. area. I'm a five year survivor of testicular cancer, and since 2014 have also been the main blogger for Kim Jones at the Testicular Cancer Awareness Foundation. Whenever I've had very difficult feelings to process, I've always taken to my writing as a way to express those feelings, so I have, of course, written a blog about Jordan here, which I'll share with you now.
As a cancer survivor, I'll tell you that the story of Jordan Jones is the one that all of us, every single one of us cancer survivors fears. It's the fear that we'll be back to life and back to living, only for cancer to once again rear its ugly head many years later, that it won't be curable, and that all of a sudden we'll have just lived our last good and healthy day. Oncologists love to joke that testicular cancer is the most curable cancer, and that the second most curable cancer is a recurrence of testicular cancer. They say this to try to put us at ease, but I've yet to find any one that's been diagnosed with testicular cancer that's ever been truly comforted by these words. There is no easy cancer, and in the context of a late recurrence of testicular cancer, as Jordan experienced, this isn't even true.
Late recurrences of testicular cancer are exceedingly rare, but typically have a poor prognosis, and usually don't respond well to chemotherapy. Although Jordan did actually get a "very good" response from some of the therapies that he received, nothing less than a "compete response" will do, because testicular cancer is both aggressive and relentless. It's true that late recurrences of testicular cancer such as these do occur a bit more frequently to those who had very advanced stage cancers initially such as Jordan, but the fact is they can happen to anybody. This could happen to me too, and this is a risk that all of us face, but never in a million years did I ever dream or imagine that one day I would one day be standing right here, right now, to say a few words on behalf of our friend.
So how do you make sense of all of this, and how do you move forward in life? The answer is that you have to evolve.
EVOLVING INTO A NEW LIFE AFTER CANCER
My years after cancer didn't go exactly according to plan. I had issues with anxiety, my mind was constantly racing. I suffered from tremendous doubts about life, and periods of depression that could last months. I also suffered from posttraumatic stress, and not the kind that people joke about having either, if they maybe had a near-miss in traffic somewhere? I'm talking about real, full-blown, huddled up in a corner in tears PTSD, because you're so afraid and feel so threatened after cancer, and don't know how to stop feeling that way. This was more challenging to deal with and overcome than my cancer was.
I was terrified of what might happen in the future, and haunted by my past, and as a result I was unable to truly enjoy the present. I learned that I had no real control in life, and taught myself to let go, and to just enjoy the moment. As I wrote a few years ago, "The best way to survive cancer is to LIVE!" Live, love, and laugh everyday, the best you know how, and it was from that point forward that I finally began to heal. It was around this time in 2013, two years after my cancer fight, that I connected with Kim, and learned of Jordan's story. I was inspired not just by their incredible story, but by the lives that they were living in the aftermath.
Here was a family that was clearly engaged with each other, enjoying life, enjoying their love for each other, and their friends. They were making the most of life and not wasting a day, and I thought to myself, that's how you need to live, that's how you need to do it. This is how you need to live after cancer, and I immediately felt a kinship and a bond with the Jones family. It's not just Jordan who inspired me, but the entire Jones family that did.
You Have to Find a Purpose in Life
Especially as young adults, we go from thinking that we have our entire lives in front of us, to realizing just how fragile and mortal we all are, and that we might not be around in this world for as long as we thought we were going to be. So many of us want to make a difference, and suddenly we feel rushed to find a purpose in life in order to make that difference, when we feel that our time might be cut short, and that our lives might be on a short clock.
Jordan and the Jones family found that purpose when Kim gave up her real-estate career to start the Testicular Cancer Awareness Foundation, and through this organization they've helped to raise awareness about testicular cancer for millions across the world, and have helped to save thousands of lives simply by spreading knowledge and awareness about this disease. There are naysayers everywhere. Don't listen to them. One person, and one family can make a difference in the world, and Jordan and the Jones family are a prime example of that. So ask yourself, what can you do? Find your purpose. What difference can you make in the world for the better?
I'm actually an engineer. I have a Masters Degree in Electrical Engineering, and work to this day as an engineer, but I can write my heart out too. I'm not supposed to be able to do that, and I know this because people tell me that all the time. I've always known that I've had this ability, and years before cancer entered my life I decided that I really needed to put this talent to good use in the world, but didn't know what to even write about. Life provided me with the answer, and today my writing about life after cancer and all of the struggles that we face have been seen by hundreds of thousands of people across the globe. I'm the last person that anybody would suspect of being able to write about what I do, pouring my heart and soul out like this, but I am what I am, this is something that I can do, and it's an amazingly fulfilling feeling in life to be able to add this to the world.
When I put this inner talent to good use in the world, I feel like I'm not wasting any time, which is so important to me. I've been blessed with five amazing years since cancer, but that's still no guarantee of a sixth or seventh. There are other non-profit organizations focused on spreading knowledge and awareness about testicular cancer both in the United States and abroad, but I felt clearly like TCAF was my home and that I belonged here, and I've been very grateful and honored for Kim and the Jones family to have welcomed me in, to have found a fitting home for all of the writing that I do, and for allowing me to be a part of such a wonderful organization.
We're all beautiful beings inside that have something unique to offer the world. Evolve yourself beyond the stereotypes and societal expectations, and have the courage to express your individuality into the world and make a difference, because the world needs it. Jordan's nickname wasn't "Sunshine" for no reason. Despite what he had been through, even while fighting through his late recurrence, he always found a way to shine. We all need to follow Jordan's example, and do the same.
Making the Ultimate Step, Beyond Ourselves and our Bodies
Our lives consist of two dates and a dash. There might not have been very much time between the two major dates in Jordan's physical life, but Jordan, more than anybody I know, made the most of that dash in between. The late Stuart Scott said it best.
"WHEN YOU DIE, IT DOES NOT MEAN THAT YOU LOSE TO CANCER.
YOU BEAT CANCER BY HOW YOU LIVE, WHY YOU LIVE,
AND THE MANNER IN WHICH YOU LIVE. SO LIVE!"
I don't ever want to hear anybody say that Jordan "lost" his cancer fight. Jordan beat his cancer, and he lived better than anybody else. He made the most of that dash!
In the end, Jordan made the ultimate evolution by not just inspiring me by how he lived, but by how he died as well. In his last days, Jordan made the final leap beyond his physical world when he realized the significance that his life, and his death, would have. He knew that he and his family, and the organization that they created, would continue to make a difference in the lives of millions, and continue to save thousands of lives long after he was gone. As evidence of this ultimate, and astonishing evolution, in his last days, it was actually Jordan that was at peace with all of this, and was the one comforting his mother as his time was running out, and not the other way around. Imagine that. A young man that found peace in his own death, and comforting his mother and trying to help her find that peace as well, and not the other way around. That was Jordan Jones.
When it's my time to go, if I can look back on my life and feel as though I've accomplished even a fraction of what Jordan and the Jones family have, I think I'll have that same feeling of peace and fulfillment in life. Jordan will forever be my hero for not just inspiring me by how he lived, but by showing us all how to die with grace and dignity, and with the confidence of a life purpose and mission fulfilled.
Jordan will continue to drive me and inspire me for the rest of my life. I'm a big dude, 6'3" tall and I wear size 15 shoes, but Jordan's footprint in this world is immeasurable. I have a lot of work to do. We all do.
To all of Jordan's Friends and the Lives he touched
I wanted to share with all of you what has been one of my biggest lessons learned learned thus far, not just in life, but as a cancer survivor as well, and that is the power of our beliefs. There's so much in this world that we have absolutely no control over, but we do have control over what we believe in. I truly do believe, with all of my heart and soul, and every fiber of my being, that merely Jordan's physical body has died, and that his spirit and his energy is living on today, and smiling down upon all of us right now.
I had struggled with my spiritual beliefs for my entire life. I always felt so torn and conflicted between various religions, but realized that it was the lack of a firm system of spiritual beliefs that was a big part of what was causing me so much recurring fear and pain, even last year, when I was four years out from cancer. Finally allowing myself a system of beliefs to grasp and hold onto tigthly, helped to take the wind right out of the sails of so much of that inner pain, and the demons that I had been struggling with for so long. My spiritual beliefs have helped me to be less afraid and more confident in life, to make peace with my own history of cancer, and help me to find peace in the passing of friends such as Jordan, as well.
If you're hurting inside, and really struggling to make any sense of this at all, never underestimate the power of belief. I know that so many of us will miss Jordan's physical presence in our lives every single day, but it brings me peace and comfort knowing that Jordan's spirit and his energy are alive and well. I feel it, I believe it, and I know it.
To the Jones Family
To Kim and Jeff, and Breanna, and to all of your family members, on behalf of so many in the testicular cancer community, I want you all to know that you are hardly alone in mourning the loss of Jordan. The entire cancer community mourns and feels this loss with you, but we will also continue to celebrate his life with you as well. You've given so much to so many, and Jordan could not have been blessed with a better and more loving family, nor a better mother. You are all truly beautiful souls. Whatever you need and whatever your wishes are in the future, I want you to know that the entire cancer community is behind you, and that together we will keep Jordan's spirit and memories alive. Jordan "Sunshine" Jones will never be forgotten, and his legacy will live on, for a thousand years.
Thanks and God Bless you all.