On October 8, Justin was diagnosed with Stage 2a Classic Hodgkin's Lymphoma after several scans and biopsies confirmed multiple large masses of cancer in his neck and chest. We are extremely fortunate that we caught it and that he has an incredible support system and excellent doctors on his side in this fight. With this somewhat rare type of cancer and the fact that he is young (29!) and otherwise very healthy, his prognosis is still good, considering. We can beat this. Correction - we WILL beat this. He has been unflappably positive throughout. Many people have asked how they can help Justin during this rough season of life. The outpouring of support has been so encouraging and it would be amazing to be able to take some of the financial stress away from him so that he can focus on healing. Excellent medical care isn’t cheap (with good reason) and I’m not exaggerating when I say that we get a new medical bill in the mail pretty much every day and it is getting overwhelming.
Justin is an amazing man and has given so much to so many people over the years - you may know him from his time in Scouts or at Troy High or CSUF, as a friendly face welcoming you to CHOC Children's Hospital where he worked in front of house management for 5 years, as your friendly neighborhood barkeep and craft beer aficionado at Native Son Alehouse in DTSA or Campus Billiards in Cypress, as a Campaign Manager with StudyKIK helping find patients for clinical trials that help bring new medicines to people faster and less expensively, or as an Imperial Officer and Stormtrooper in costume with his local Garrison of the 501st Legion charity Star Wars costuming club. Let's show him our support in his fight!
The Long Story
In early August, Justin was just sitting in his office at work and was massaging his sore neck when he found a hard lump on one side of his throat, just above the collarbone. He thought it could just be a swollen lymph node but that it was odd it was only on one side and he had no other real symptoms of being ill. Still, he made an appointment with his primary care doctor, who agreed it was odd and sent him for an ultrasound of the mass. The ultrasound ruled out a cyst or normal lymph node, and determined that it was a "complex mass". This let his insurance clear him for an MRI in late August. His doctor got results the next day and called to see if Justin could come in to the office. Justin said he'd have to take the day off work to come in and asked if he really needed to come in today. The doctor said he did.
His primary care doctor told him the MRI showed a mass in his neck as well as a sizable one is his chest. He said he would be surprised if it was anything other than an aggressive malignant cancer. That was a tough day for Justin. Despite that, he still suited up for an event at a middle school carnival as a Stormtrooper with the 501st the very next day. Cancer wasn’t (and isn’t) going to stop him from doing the things he loves and bringing happiness to others.
After the MRI, he next had a CT scan, a consult with a thoracic specialist/surgeon, blood work, a fine needle aspiration biopsy, an echocardiogram, a pulmonary function test, more blood work, a PET-CT scan, more blood work, and an open biopsy where they put him under anesthesia and removed a piece of his lymph node. The results slowly came in over the next several weeks and confirmed the diagnosis of Classic Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Since it is in multiple locations, but all above his diaphragm, his oncologist put him at Stage 2a. Not an early diagnosis, but definitely not too late.
He had another surgery just 4 days after the open biopsy where they placed a chemo port under the skin in his chest, with a catheter that runs into the vein near his heart. That one hurt and bruised pretty bad, but we know it will make the whole process much easier. He is ready for chemo. His doctors are recommending a short course of two rounds (four treatments) of chemo and another PET scan before continuing treatment - radiation if the mass has shrunk enough and more chemo if not. This treatment will definitely take him into next year and next year's insurance deductible all over again. But each step forward is another step towards him getting better.
Justin just started a new full time job in May and the company and his boss have been amazing about working with him taking time off or working remote from home when needed. He is lucky to have medical insurance through his job which thankfully kicked in just days before he first found the lump in his neck. Ironically, he almost never gets sick so, not imagining for a second that something like this would happen to him, he chose a plan with a high ($6k) deductible, which he will hit by the end of the year and have to hit again starting in January of 2020. $12,000+ is a lot out of the blue. When you add in all the other out of pocket costs for treatment, prescription and OTC meds, time taken off work, and so on, it adds up quick. Chemo may also affect fertility so he made sure to bank some swimmers just in case, and that was another cost.
Any funds donated will go directly to Justin's medical costs and cost of living - all funds in excess will be donated to the American Cancer Society in support of cancer research.
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