November 21st is Family Volunteer Day. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) encourages you to volunteer as a family today. Whatever you choose to do, do it together. Some ideas include: take a few minutes to call a friend, neighbor or colleague; cook a meal together and drop it at the doorstep of someone in need; rake a neighbor’s yard or put a book in a neighborhood lending library.
To honor this day, we are sharing the story about a family faced with a cancer diagnosis, who banded together when the future seemed so unclear.
The bedrock of the Jones family was shaken to its core in June 2011, changing them forever.
On a summer day they will never forget, Rufus Jones sat next to the strongest woman he knows when she received what seemed to be the worst news of their lives. There in the sterile healthcare setting, a deadly diagnosis: cancer. Rufus’ wife, Laraine, heard the words no one ever wants to hear. Her multiple myeloma diagnosis was treatable, but there is still no cure. Her fate was sealed, she had no more than 2-3 years left to hold her husband...embrace her kids. All while enduring relentless chemotherapy.
“Laraine and I looked at each other, hugged, and said we will beat this,” Rufus remembers.
That’s when Laraine’s fight began. She immediately researched her diagnosis and started chemotherapy treatment. Though she wasn’t ready to retire as a middle school teacher, Laraine and Rufus took a leap of faith. “As she began chemotherapy, we made the tough decision to rely [on] only one income, our faith, as well as science and medicine.”
Thankfully, Laraine wasn’t alone. Her daughter Lauren vividly remembers a touching moment when she saw her dad faithfully demonstrate his commitment to his wife as he shaved her head after a month of chemo.
“When my dad was done, he told my mom that she looked beautiful. From that moment, I knew that my mom had a partner and caregiver who would never waver in support,” Lauren recalls.
Rufus says he draws his strength from Laraine’s courage. “Caring is not about how much you give, but that you give unconditionally,” he says. “As a result, my care for Laraine comes easy as it is built on our marriage and friendship of 43 years, anchored in a faith we believe is powered by strength that we can call on during times of need. While our faith does not guarantee a cure, it provides hope that Laraine will beat blood cancer.”
While Laraine was preparing for her stem cell transplant, Lauren couldn’t just sit on the sidelines as her brave mother was in the fight of her life. So she took matters into her own hands by running her first Boston Marathon to support The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society through Team In Training.
The spark was lit. Like wildfire to a dry prairie, the Jones family came together to launch a ten-week fundraising campaign for the 2019 LLS Man & Woman of the Year. The family raised over $86,000 through Team Jonesin’ for a Cure. Lauren named a Dana Farber research grant after her mom, focused on multiple myeloma. The disease was officially being fought from all sides. Their efforts even gave Lauren the 2019 LLS Woman of the Year title for the New England region.
What was originally supposed to be a death sentence ended up bonding a family ever closer together. Despite twice-daily alarms that remind the family of Laraine’s medication times, they are living life to the fullest while she continues her fight.
After her diagnosis gave Laraine three years at most to live, it’s clear 9 years later that with faith, love and family...cancer just can’t keep up with the Joneses.