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Justin and Mallory STRONG!

$17,681 of $250,000 goal

Raised by 215 people in 5 months
Created September 23, 2018

It’s hard to think of time as linear when there are so many gaps.

One of my absolute best friends, Justin Valdez, was recently diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer. He is 28 years old, and up until a couple weeks ago, he was an in-the-throes second-year medical student at the University of Iowa, happily married to his high school sweetheart.

And then life happened.

This past week I've been casting about in this sort of feigned shock, calm and optimistic, pretending like I don't know or understand what "unfair" means. But deep down, I know: this is the textbook definition of “unfair.” And I know I’m not supposed to make sense of it, and I can’t pretend to know why certain things happen to people who least deserve it and others continue on without so much as a sniffle. But that doesn’t stop me from hating it all.
 
Of course, I don't let myself become too sad or too angry for too long - because, the truth is, I do not have a single damn thing to complain about. My feelings are but a drop in a bucket, comparatively speaking. Because the total tonnage of things Justin and Mal could complain about right now could level a town.
 
But do I hear complaints from him? Not at all. Instead, he tells me that his "liver and colon are being real d**** right now," but he’ll find time to see me soon. 

He’ll find time to see me. That's the type of man Justin is.
 
As we’ve grown older, I’d be lying if I said Justin and I have grown apart. Growing up has a way of doing that, even with close friends. No longer are our houses separated by only 10 miles of corn. No longer do we work together everyday. No longer do we stay up super late playing video games until his mom comes upstairs to yell at us for laughing or screaming too loudly. We’ve grown up. But even though the seasons pass, I’d also be lying if I said I didn’t still consider him no different than a brother.
 
And although we’ve certainly aged, one thing has always remained the same with Justin: his strength. Justin has never taken a thing from anyone. He gives and he gives and he makes his own luck and he fought against all odds to get to where he is today. It's part of what makes him who he is: a self-made man who carries his and your worlds on his shoulders.
 
The problem is, some things were not meant to be carried on your own. 

Some things were meant to be left to a fierce belief in what we can achieve together.
 
One out of every three pages on GoFundMe is for raising money for medical treatments and financial burdens that come with it- and most often, for cancer. And the reason, though quite obvious, bears saying.

Cancer touches us all. If we're real lucky, not us specifically. Not our family or our friends, either. However, I know a great many of you aren’t so lucky. I also know that even the lucky ones know someone living with that pain from someone's experience with cancer.  It takes the air right out of the room. It’s our job now to restore it.

Justin is and will be fighting for his life against cancer. Because that is the type of man he is. He overcomes odds, he doesn't fall to them. But for once, I do not want him to do all on his own. Mal is one of the toughest women I know, but she deserves us to lean on, too.
 
I do not want their lives to be determined by money. Insurance companies and big pharma and the other money players have decided that the burden should fall on the pocket books of those already afflicted with an indescribable burden. That is the reality Mal and Justin and faced with now. Private loan holders and medical bill collectors do not care, landlords do not care, and the US Government does not care. 

So, we have to.



I'm calling on a favor from each and every one of you, and everyone you know, and everyone they know.... for Justin and Mal. Please, any little bit that you can donate will be very much appreciated. The money we collect will help offset and defray some of the soon-to-be mounting medical bills, as well as other financial burdens, incurred as a result of the life changes Justin and Mal will have to make in the coming months and years.

Donate today. Donate tomorrow and next week and next month for good measure. And if you can't donate, please, share. Share on your Facebook. Share on your LinkedIn. Share by word of mouth to family members and friends who still do not have social media accounts. 
 
Let me extend my deepest gratitude to all considering sharing or donating.  Your support is immeasurably appreciated. All donations will be put into a bank account created just for these donations so that there is an easy money-in, money-out audit trail for the IRS. For those reasons, read this fancy disclaimer:

Donations to Justin and Mal’s campaign are to be strictly construed as a "gift" with no expectation of return. You cannot claim your donation as a deduction on your taxes, because this is neither a fundraiser nor a 501(c)(3) organization. It is a campaign for one of the most deserving couples I've ever had the privilege of knowing, so that they can focus on Justin’s health and each other, and not mounting bills. Justin and Mal want and deserve the best care available - and will need to travel and see the best specialists he can to get the best treatment plan possible.

If we can deliver even an ounce of reassurance to their building worries, I know Justin and Mal would be eternally grateful. Once again, Justin is a 28-year-old second year medical student who is taking a year on leave from school to fight the good fight and beat this cancer’s ass. For as long as I can remember, he has wanted to save people. Let us band together and save him so he can make good on that promise. #JustinandMallorySTRONG

Please follow Justin's progress on his wife's Facebook campaign page, linked here

And please, don't forget to share:

 
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As many of you know, Justin underwent his colon/liver resection surgery on 1/25/2019. His surgery went very well, but he ran into a couple minor issues post-operatively. His GI/urinary tract didn’t quite “wake up” after the surgery. Definitely not uncommon for the location and type of surgery performed, but as a result, his hospital stay was extended a little longer than expected.

Fortunately, late last week, his GI/urinary tract “woke up” again. This past Saturday morning, he was able to eat solid foods for the first time since before the surgery (you should have seen the look on Justin’s face just before he devoured (half) a Dunkin’ Glazed Chocolate Donut – as well as the priceless expression on his surgical nurse’s face when he told her that a Dunkin’ Donut was what he was going to eat first). He was able to undergo another minor surgical procedure on Monday to help stop the blood supply feeding the tumors in his liver. And today, 2/7/2019, finally, Justin and Mal got to go Home.

I thank all of you who have helped lift off even an iota of the burden that has been unduly dealt to Justin and Mal, both with your kind words and even kinder donations. I’ll keep saying it: although there may be such things as false science and false promises, there is no such thing as false Hope. There is only Hope. But our fight – and our Hope – is not over. Justin has more chemotherapy treatment – and more surgeries – on his horizon. Mal has more hospital chairs – and parking lots – on her horizon. And it is our job, our obligation, to do everything in our power so they can focus on Hope.

Please donate. Share. And send your Love. #JAMS #JustinandMalloryStrong
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UPDATE!

Recently, Justin received good news on his progress.

For those of you who did not see my last post, Justin’s oncologist has been tracking Justin’s response to his chemotherapy treatment very closely. There a number of ways a doctor can do this, one of which is a CEA test. A CEA test is a specific type of blood test that is used to gauge Justin’s response to his treatment by measuring levels of a certain type of a toxic protein that is made by Justin’s cancerous tumor cells. A baseline CEA marker is established prior to treatment, and at certain treatment points, both during and after his therapy, his CEA value is tested again to see how his levels are trending. Prior to Thanksgiving, his CEA values were downtrending significantly, from 966 to 116. Good news: a few days ago, his CEA values were tested again, and this time, resulted at 22! Again, 3 to 5 ng/mL is considered ‘elevated,’ but his continually dropping CEA values does indicate Justin is responding well to treatment.

Another way a doctor can monitor the effectiveness of the chemotherapy treatment is to take a series of images to visualize the size of Justin’s tumors and compare them to the measurements first taken back in September. The two most common imaging studies doctors order to do this are CT scans and PET scans. Justin’s doctor had him undergo a CT scan. These were the first scans since Justin’s diagnosis. More good news: Justin’s tumors have shrunk significantly!

All of this means that Justin is now a candidate for surgery! This will be happening in the coming months and will most likely require multiple surgeries. The surgeons will attempt to remove as much of the remaining tumors as they can from Justin’s colon and liver. Other types of cancer treatment, i.e. chemotherapy and radiation, may be used after surgery is performed if all the tumors are not removed, but the goal of the surgeries is to remove the tumors completely.

I said it once, and I’ll say it again: there may be such things as false science and false promises, there is no such thing as false Hope. There is only Hope.

So, here’s to Hope. Happy Holidays, everyone!
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All-

Another update. Justin has just finished his fourth chemotherapy session, so his oncologist wanted to see how Justin was responding. One way to do that is to order a CEA test.

A CEA test is a specific type of blood test that is used to gauge Justin’s response to his treatment by measuring levels of a certain type of a toxic protein that is made by Justin’s cancerous tumor cells. A baseline CEA marker is established prior to treatment, and at certain treatment points, both during and after his therapy, his CEA value is tested again to see how his levels are trending.

Good news: Justin’s CEA values are downtrending significantly, from 966 to 116!

Note, a CEA value of 116 is still very much a concerning value in and of itself (3-5 ng/mL is considered ‘elevated’) but it does indicate Justin is responding well to treatment – even if that means only stunting the growth of his tumors. But for now, it is enough to be happy about. At least, I certainly am. Justin’s oncologist and treatment team are, too. But most importantly, I know Justin and Mal are as well, and that, for me, means everything.

It was once said that everything that is done in this world is done by Hope. I hope that’s true. Because I know I’ve never hoped for something so strongly. And I know a great many that hope for the same. It is also said that although there are such things as false science and false promises, there is no such thing as false Hope. There is only Hope.

So, here’s to Hope. Here’s to having something to believe in. And here’s to having something to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving!
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All-

Justin and Mal have uploaded a video to YouTube that I've included here explaining Justin's recent treatment and care as well as sharing an update regarding the results of his genetic mutation testing .

Caution: Justin is very good looking. Watching the video can cause temporary side effects, such as taken abackedness.

Also, more caution: there is also some *squeamish * scenes showing the procedure Justin and Mal go through to clean and remove his port.
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$17,681 of $250,000 goal

Raised by 215 people in 5 months
Created September 23, 2018
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