Former WSU, Bothell athlete Jaimeson Jones pursues dreams as he battles cancer
Jaimeson Jones, 20-year-old former WSU and Bothell athlete, crams a lifetime of memories with the help of family and friends as he refuses to yield to cancer.
Seattle Times staff reporter
BOTHELL — Jaimeson Jones never expected to be on the set of the "Daily Show," much less sitting in Jon Stewart's chair.
But there he was, looking across the desk at the host of the popular Comedy Central show.
"We just chatted politics," said Jones, who also met Stephen Colbert.
It was a dream scenario for the 20-year-old, who was a political science major at Washington State before he was struck with testicular cancer for the second time.
"That was something I really always dreamt of doing, but really never thought I would do," Jones said, "because you just don't get to meet the host and sit down and talk with them for 10 minutes unless something's up or you're really important."
That trip, which included tours of New York City and Washington, D.C., was the second leg of a journey that began in Europe. It was a just-in-case adventure, a lifetime's worth of memories stuffed into a spring that has carried him through a summer full of uncertainty.
Everything the result of stacking one day on top of another.
He has been through 16 surgeries since 2005 and beat the cancer for four years, but it has come back with vengeance. His last remaining option is a clinical trial for an experimental treatment.
He thought about where he has been and what he wants to do in the future, while sitting at the kitchen table in his mother's home in Bothell after a recent trip to the hospital. The former cross-country runner, who also rowed on the club crew team at Washington State, constantly rubbed his head — now bald because of chemotherapy — while answering questions.
He talked like a man determined to keep going despite the grim prognosis.
"It does get harder and harder as things go on," he said. "It's kind of like a long, slow decline. It's a very slow way to go, if that's the case. Part of you wants to just get it over with, but part of me also, and I think the better half, wants to keep it going."
His plan doesn't change. He stacks one day on top of another.
"I'm a little upset," he said. "But I try to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I don't really have any other choice."
Jones was first diagnosed in 2005. He beat it back. He returned to running, graduated from high school and went to Washington State with plans to study political science. He also joined the men's rowing team.
He discovered the cancer had returned in May 2009. He went through two rounds of chemotherapy, two rounds of high-dose chemo and two stem-cell transplants. The cancer never went into remission.
On Dec. 31, he was told by his oncologist at Seattle Children's Hospital that every treatment option in Seattle had been exhausted.
"So far I haven't really heard of anything that's going to exactly cure me," Jones said.
The news created a crossroads. He continued to stack the days and put together a list of dreams, while his family went to work, making sure he could experience them.
With the support of friends and people Jones had never met, the family raised enough money to send Jones, his girlfriend, sister and cousin to Europe.
"I've never ceased to be amazed by the lengths people go to, to help someone," Jones said. "I'm always surprised when I hear someone is doing something like that."
They left right after Valentine's Day and. visited five countries — England, Spain, Italy, France and Germany — over 25 days. He fit a lifetime's worth of European memories into less than a month.
There was the warmth of a sunny day in London.
"I don't know how we got that," he said.
There was the overwhelming enormity of the Pantheon in Rome.
"You look up and you can't even see the entire dome within your range of vision."
There was the Sistine Chapel. Well, he wasn't really impressed with that.
"It was dark and hard to find the famous painting that you connected always with the Sistine Chapel."
But, of all the things he experienced, he'll never forget David. He lingered at the immaculate marble statue in Florence. The magnificence of Michelangelo's masterpiece spoke to him.
"The thing is just perfect. It's a 20-foot thing and he looks like he's just going to come alive and step off his pedestal."
Shortly after he returned from Europe, he went to New York and Washington, D.C. with his father, Bill. They toured the Capitol and the White House. They walked on the Senate floor.
As he checked each item off his list, he tried to maintain a positive, yet realistic, attitude.
"I'm hoping it all wasn't necessary, that I'll get to go to Europe again, that I'll get to do all these things again later in life," he said. "But I have to be a little practical or I guess cautious just in case. I'm not saying it's going to happen."
Jones would like to participate in a clinical trial for an experimental treatment at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center with Dr. Lawrence Einhorn, who was in charge of the team that treated Lance Armstrong.
"This is really the only option I've got," he said.
He keeps stringing days together. He spends time with friends and tries to keep his mind off the future. He wants to live past Christmas and make it to his 21st birthday on March 14, 2011.
"I've managed to get by, day-by-day," he said. "But if I can build all those days until I'm 80, just by stacking one day on top of another ... I don't need to take it all in one big scoop."
There are two things he misses — the ability to exercise his mind at school and train his body by running or rowing. He briefly returned to WSU in January, attending a few classes and visiting friends.
"If it came down to it, I know my brain's my strongest muscle in my body and that's what I rely on most, but sports just add another dimension to my life," he said. "I miss it and I've been looking to maybe start jogging for a long time, but it seems like one thing crops up after another."
One day not long ago, Jones' mother, Maureen, was at the video store. She saw a poster from the movie "Rocky Balboa" with a quote that seemed to fit the way her son approaches life.
"Going in one more round when you don't think you can, that's what makes all the difference in your life," it read.
The poster now hangs in his room.
When asked what remains on his list, Jones said he still wants to go up in a hot-air balloon.
"I grew up in Kenmore on a hill where we could see the hot-air balloons from Woodinville all the time," Jones said. "It's something I've always wanted to do."
Whether it's for a full day or a few hours, the balloon will carry him away from the daily stress, away from the cancer. Until then, he'll just keep stacking one day on top of another for as long as he can.
Mason Kelley: 206-464-8277 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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