SEATTLE — "Check your nads, lads!"
"Don't be a punk, check your junk."
"Don't be slackers, check your knackers."
Nancy Balin and Maureen Jones read their signs with wide grins and the occasional cackle. They call them their "Nut Notes."
They might make a teenage boy blush, but the laughter is meant to provoke conversation. That's because Nancy and Maureen know how deadly silence can be.
When their boy Jaimeson was in junior high, cross country coaches noticed his talent and leadership qualities. But no one noticed the pain.
He felt it "down there," and thought it was just a cost of the sport. Only a morning in writhing pain alerted Maureen to the danger.
They went to the doctor: Testicular cancer. Age 14. Stage 4.
Testicular cancer is the most common form of cancer for men ages 15-35, and it has a 95 percent cure rate if it's caught early. But Jaimeson's embarrassment kept him from telling his moms about the swelling and pain for about a year.
Doctors gave him a 45 percent shot. Like most 14 year-old boys, Jaimeson didn't feel his own mortality.
"He thought he was invincible," Maureen says. "So he could accept the 45 percent. He just knew he was going to fight it."
And he did.
Five surgeries, four rounds of chemo. Remission. Then checks every six months.
Clear. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Jaimeson eventually headed off to Washington State. He was rowing crew, studying, flourishing. Then Maureen got a picture in the mail. To the average eye, it looked normal. Not to Maureen.
"I immediately, immediately I could see that he was sick." They got new test results.
"Anything over four means the cancer's back," she explains about the levels. "His were 89."
Doctors gave him six months. He lived 10. Long enough to see Europe, give his best fight, and tell his mom where he wanted his remaining money to go: to his sisters' education.
Big brother couldn't be there to protect them anymore, and he knew his treatment had been like quicksand to their family's finances.
October 2010, they lost their only boy, their daughters' only brother. Heartbreak. But now also, the cackling.
"Family Jewels, 5k! I said, 'That's it,'" Nancy raises her hands in the air in triumph.
It's what they've named the walk/run/pie feed in two weeks (March 19), held in Jaimeson's memory.
Entry fees go toward a scholarship for college students who have had a sibling with cancer.
It's allowing Jaimeson's legacy to live on campus - and his laughter to continue on the course.
"Too chicken to check your nuggets?"
Maureen and Nancy's signs let young men know they must self-check. They must speak up if there's a problem.
After the Aurora Bridge crash, people in our area jumped into action, donating hotel rooms, blood, prayers, challenging Seattleites' reputation for being chilly (the "Seattle Freeze"). It inspired me to pass along stories of when we see people in the community coming together, or what I call #SeattleAntifreeze. If you know a story that should be told, let me know. firstname.lastname@example.org
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