In Jaimeson Jones’ case, the cancer would have started around age 13. What started out as pain and swelling in his testicles progressed until he was experiencing pain in his chest.
“He did what men do: they wait for it to go away,” said Jones’ stepmother Nancy Balin.
By the time he went to the doctor at 14, he was diagnosed with stage four testicular cancer. At that point, the cancer had spread to his lungs and a tumor was pressing on his heart.
In May 2010, the cancer recurred. At that point, Jones was a freshman at Washington State University.
Jones was 20 when he died in October 2010 from testicular cancer. His case highlights the reality that catching the disease early on increases the chance for those diagnosed with testicular cancer to survive.
Don’t wait to say something, said Balin.
This is why Balin is working to raise awareness of testicular cancer by organizing a Ball Crawl with three local breweries and a kettle corn company.
Anyone stopping by the Kenmore brewery district Nov. 18 will get their fill of locally brewed beer and help fund a college education for siblings of children with cancer.
The event begins at 1 p.m. and event attendees can buy a $20 ticket early-bird ticket online or a $25 ticket onsite, on the day of the event. These tickets will get them a beer tray at the three breweries participating in the event: Cairn Brewing, Nine Yards Brewing and 192 Brewing. Four five-ounce glasses will line each tray, along with informational fliers about testicular cancer.
Both the scholarship and the fundraiser are headed by Balin, a long-time Northshore resident.
SIBLINGS: SHADOW SURVIVORS
Having had a child go through cancer, Balin wanted to highlight the impact of cancer on families, which requires a great amount of energy, time and resources.
Cancer can be devastating for the siblings of those dealing cancer, but they don’t always get the public focus. And with parents pouring financial savings into treatment, travel and other medical-related costs, college savings can become depleted.
CRYSTALLIZING AN IDEA
Balin organized the first Family Jewels 5K run in 2011, which is held annually in March. The run is held at St. Edward State Park — a favorite place to run for Jones, a former cross-country athlete at Bothell High School.
At that first 5K, Balin announced that she would be starting the scholarship, which would be funded through sponsors, proceeds from fundraisers and donations.
The scholarship would be called the Jaimeson Jones Memorial Scholarship, in his memory.
When he died, Jones had left funds to help pay for his sisters’ college education. He knew his parents’ funds were being channeled into his care.
The scholarship is awarded every year and is renewable for all four years of college.
Accepted students are awarded a scholarship each year, with three scholars receiving a scholarship in 2017.
“I always want to have money in the bank,” Balin said, ensuring that the organization can continue to fund the education of local Northshore students.
THE BALL CRAWL
Until now, the 5K has been the only fundraiser the organization has put together.
But this year, Balin — a member of the Kenmore Business Alliance — met a Bothell jeweler at a meeting.
“I always wanted to have an event in November for testicular cancer,” Balin said. The jeweler suggested the idea for the Ball Crawl and the event catapulted from there.
Balin admitted that she isn’t a beer drinker, but she has friends who are. And since Kenmore has three breweries directly off the Burke-Gilman Trail, the locations are easy for the community to access.
“We’re really a neighborhood brewery,” said Jen Boyd, who is part owner of Cairn. “Community involvement is really important to us.”
Balin merged the jewel theme and the idea of a pub crawl into one, which is when the Kenmore Ball Crawl became a reality.
MAKING EDUCATION FUN
“Education is key,” Balin said, noting that the event’s goal to educate people on testicular cancer and how to catch it in its early stages will be approached in a fun, interactive manner.
There will be games and a nut hut — all playing off various words used to describe testicles.
Attendees can enter the nut hut and men can conduct a self-check and read informational material provided. Partners are also encouraged to spend a couple moments in the hut to get educated.
Beer Ball Bingo will also be included in the activities, as another way for attendees to learn about testicular cancer.
Alexandra Albrecht is a student at Western Washington University and a recipient of the scholarship. Her brother is a Ewing sarcoma cancer survivor.
Albrecht recalled the complexities of having a sibling struggle with a serious medical condition, while also watching her parents focus a lot of their attention on her brother.
“It taught me to develop a good support system,” Albrecht said, adding that the experience brought their family closer together.
STEPS TO CATCH THE CANCER
Testicular cancer is curable if caught in its early stages. Part of educating the public about the cancer includes removing the stigma about discussing the symptoms.
Jones had a sports physical about seven months before he was diagnosed, which did not include a genital exam. Balin pointed out that it’s also important for pediatricians to be vigilant about this. And health classes — a setting focused on educating students about their bodies — is another place to start the conversation.
Involving family members and partners in the conversation is also key to raising awareness about testicular cancer. And reducing the awkwardness around the topic is another key component of increasing awareness and catching it in its early stages.
“What we’ve done for breast cancer,” said Balin, “we have to do for testicular cancer.”
Hannah Pickering is a student with the University of Washington News Lab.