Captain Jason Leo Jenness served in the 564th Missile Squadron at Malmstrom AFB from 1993 – 1997. Jason was a healthy, fit all-American guy with his entire life ahead of him when he was diagnosed in March 2001. Jason had since left the service and was employed as a civilian manager in a large global company, swiftly moving up the ranks and pursuing his second master’s degree. He had a young wife and was beginning to try to have a family when he was diagnosed with NHL.
Diagnosis: Jason had severe back pain for several weeks that could not be attributed to an injury, nor did it respond to conventional care such as heat, ice, pain medications (OTC and eventually prescribed), or chiropractic care.
Reaching his breaking point, Jason presented at a hospital ED in his local community of Binghamton, NY. Jason had no other physical symptoms, such as fatigue, weight loss, night sweats or swollen lymph nodes that were obvious.
After scans showed a sign of a lump in Jason’s back, he went in for “exploratory/diagnostic surgery” on March 6, 2001. The general surgeon called a pathologist in during the procedure and, without a full cell pathology, immediately concluded he had cancer throughout his lower back and lymph nodes. Additional pathology was performed post-surgery to conclude the specific type as NHL/Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma.
Jason began aggressive chemotherapy locally in Binghamton and then was transferred to Boston, MA, closer to our family, and to receive care at Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Jason was preparing for an autologous stem cell transplant in July of 2001. During the stem cell harvest, they could not get more than 25% of the cells he would require for the transplant. I remember sitting with him for hours of harvesting – hooked up to a machine similar to a dialysis machine and the cruelty of a counter (similar to an odometer) crawling along on the back of the machine. I knew the rough number of cells that would be required, and I could see it barely moving, hour after hour. Realizing his body no longer had enough healthy cells to be harvested was utterly tormenting. He received this news with his beautiful, valiant spirit and continued fighting, hoping there was another path for him.
Days later, Jason’s body was failing him, and he finally told one of his nurses he could no longer breathe on his own. He was placed on life support in the late night hours of July 20 and passed away with his mother Rhonda, wife Doreen, and me by his side on July 22, 2001. Jason was 31 years old. – As told by his sister.