||: First and foremost, we’d like to thank everyone for the outpouring of love and support that we have received since this all began. You are a constant reminder that the world is and has always been full of caring, compassionate people despite what we see in the media these days. In spite of distances near and far, the love we have felt from our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, acquaintances and even total strangers continues to carry us through this storm. :||
Justis was a normal teenage kid. He played soccer and video games. He loved math and the Philadelphia 76ers. In 2015, Justis graduated from Notre Dame De Lourdes in Swarthmore, PA. He loved hanging out with his classmates and enjoyed making them laugh as much as possible. He was a connector and he always made sure that everyone was included. After Justis graduated 8th Grade, we moved from our lifelong home in Delaware County, Pennsylvania to our new home near Atlanta, Georgia. Justis acclimated well to his new surroundings and school and began making friends within a few months. He maintained a 4.0 GPA at South Forsyth HS and continued playing soccer for the next 2 years but on Tuesday, January 24th, 2017, our lives were changed forever.
Justis had been vomiting all day and complaining of a severe headache. A visit with his primary doctor that afternoon failed to find a cause. As the evening progressed, Justis’s condition worsened and he was unable to keep even the smallest sip of water down. Fearing he was becoming too dehydrated, we prepared to take him to the hospital. It was at this point that our son began to seize. We immediately called 911 and Justis was rushed by EMS to the emergency room where doctors quickly evaluated his deteriorating condition. Through a CT scan of his head, the doctors discovered bleeding and pressure in the brain.
The situation became dire.
The ED doctors called for a neurosurgeon that was thankfully just minutes away at a nearby hospital and a drainage tube was placed in Justis’s brain to relieve the pressure before they airlifted him to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
Essentially, these doctors saved his life. Our son had no prior symptoms yet we almost lost him that same night.
The following day, an MRI revealed a large tumor in the right thalamus of Justis’s brain. Though the tumor was considered operable, the doctors knew they would not be able to remove it completely.
A biopsy was performed and an anxiety-ridden, full week later, the results were in. Justis’ tumor was classified as a Grade IV Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) — the most aggressive and life-threatening form of brain cancer — this is a terminal diagnosis as Glioblastoma does not typically respond to traditional cancer therapies. Although we were faced with the worst possible diagnosis, we were determined to fight the disease through every natural and holistic method possible.
We hiked, we laughed, we enjoyed every moment. We held onto hope and Justis fought with everything he had but on May 11, 2017, less than 4 months after being diagnosed, Justis left this earthly world to live in light, eternally.
Justis was good kid. He was an intellect with a wonderful sense of humor. He was our beloved son, but he was also a big brother, grandson, nephew, cousin and friend. He was a jokester, an athlete, a gamer, — a most extraordinary 15-year-old young man. A month before he was diagnosed, Justis received academic letters from his High School for a 4.0 GPA — all the while, having a brain tumor the size of a tennis ball in his head. We will always be proud of him and we cherish the memories we have stored in our souls every day.
And even though memories are all we now have of Justis, we are learning to look back with joy rather than sorrow. It’s hard but we are learning. His short yet impactful life continues to inspire us every day. We think of him every day.
Justis was smart, funny, honest, caring, hard-working and courageous. If he was scared about what he was faced with, he certainly didn’t show it. True courage is moving forward in the face of fear. It is not the absence of fear. Justis was the type of person we wanted to be around, and he made us proud to be his parents. We see all these great qualities in his sister Auria and we know that his spirit is helping to guide her through unprecedented tragedy in our lives
Justis taught us so many things throughout his short life. And before he left us he taught us one last thing. He taught us that it’s our connection to each other that makes this world a special place. More often than not, we must put our phones away and really look at each other. We are not alone. Each and every one of us has suffered, is suffering or will suffer at some point in our lives. But the connections we make in this life are what will help to ease us into the next life. After everything that Justis’ journey has taught us, this fact is one of the most important takeaways. So please, remember to love your neighbor. Love is the most important part of life.
And the grief we feel after losing our son is nothing more than love with no place to go. We will never stop loving our son, but we will try to find a way to redirect that love so that the grief will fade, and the love will continue.