For human beings, life consists of a series of beginnings and endings. Birth, first steps, first day in school, first date, graduation from schools, job changes, and finally death are typical examples of these passages. Although each person experiences these types of events individually, for a select few, parallel times and events can be observed that gives one pause to consider that, perhaps, there is some higher purpose and linkage to the existence and life of these individuals. So it is in the case of two men, Jared Grossman and John Tuggle. At first view, there does not seem to be any similarities between the two. John Tuggle was a professional football player whose career took place in the early 1980’s. Jared was my son. He was not famous nor had any world shaking achievements. Yet both lives followed parallel paths that tied them together forever.
1983 was a year of beginnings for both Jared and John.
My son, Jared was born on October 25, 1983. Throughout his life he was beset by learning and anxiety disabilities. Despite these obstacles, Jared persevered and fought to overcome his difficulties. He loved music of all types and as he grew up he became an avid fan of sports and his favorite team was the New York Giants. When he was 10 years old, as a member of a Pop Warner Giants team in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, he appeared in a commercial on local news which was promoting an NFL match between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles which was occurring the following Sunday. In the spot, the Cherry Hill Giants were playing against a Philadelphia Eagle player, Anton Davis. Since Jared wore #56, after his idol Lawrence Taylor, he was featured in the spot as Anton Davis lifted him up with one hand and said to the camera “..You don’t look so tough to me LT”.
1983 was also a new beginning for John Tuggle. He was the last player selected in the 1983 NFL draft. The team that picked him was The New York Giants. He went on to have a good rookie season and even was selected for note for his play on special teams. His story was the object of an ESPN short film: http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/9179015/the-forgotten-player-bill-parcells-first-draft-giants-stars-latest-30-30-documentary-series
Unfortunately, the next parallel life event occurred when both men were about 22 years old and both in peak physical shape. In 2005, Jared found a lump on his clavicle after doing some exercise. In 1984,in his second year with the Giants, John was being treated for some injury by a trainer when a lump was discovered on his back. In both cases a diagnosis of a Sarcoma cancer was given to the men. Sarcoma is a class of cancers that can affect people of all ages and is relatively rare when compared with other cancers. Jared’s type was Rhabdomyosarcoma which was typically a children’s disease while John had Osteosarcoma. The survival rate for both of these cancers is 50% or less depending on severity and metastases. Although twenty years apart, the treatment protocol for both Jared and John was largely the same. Several rounds of chemotherapy and radiation were and still are the first line treatment of these cancers. These treatments destroy healthy tissue along with the cancer and have severe side effects.
The “endings” life cycle for each of these men also followed similar paths. Both Jared and John endured their treatments and had hopes of recovery and renewed good health. Jared went into remission and recurrence twice over the next five years. He suffered all the side effects of chemotherapy but, as he had done his whole life, he fought to endure them in order to survive. John, however, never went into remission. Jared died on March 23, 2010 at the age of 26. John died on August 30, 1986 at the age of 25. In another sad parallel, August 30 was the date that Jared was diagnosed with the cancer.
After Jared died, his mother and I were devastated and at a loss as to what to do next since Jared was our only child. We had spent our whole lives helping him through his school and emotional problems and throughout his whole ordeal with cancer, we worked full time looking for new research studies for him to join and for alternative treatments for him to try. With him gone, so was our “reason to be”. We decided that we wanted to make sure that his name would be remembered and at the same time we would try to help other young Sarcoma patients so that they might not go through the hell that Jared and we did. So we formed a non-profit 501(3)c charity called “Jareds Juggernaut to Cure Sarcomas” in May 2010 (three months after Jared died).
While there have been some improvements in the treatments and survival rates of some cancers, notably breast and colon, Sarcomas, of all types, have only made marginal progress in patient survival rates. To be sure, research is ongoing to find new treatments and methods of early detection of Sarcomas but because the new patient rate for Sarcomas is much lower than other cancers, funding from all sources is limited. Like other “orphan” diseases it becomes incumbent that grass root groups help support Sarcoma research in order to ensure that it’s progress is continuous and upward.
Jared’s Juggernaut To Cure Sarcoma is one of these grass root groups. Its mission is to find and fund researchers who are working on body sparing treatments to prevent and/or fight Sarcoma cancers of all types. Jared’s biggest problem with his cancer treatments was dealing with the horrible side effects of chemotherapy. The constant nausea, pain, hair loss and other side effects were, to Jared, worse than the pain of the cancer itself. Many times he wanted to just stop the treatments and let nature take its course. If it weren’t for the urging by his mother and I for him to continue, he probably would not have done any therapy after the first remission. So when we formed “Jareds Juggernaut to Cure Sarcoma” the one key requirement of any group that we considered supporting was that their research used no or minimal drugs or methods which would destroy healthy tissue while treating the Sarcoma cells. After an extensive worldwide search of researchers, the group has selected three facilities which meet its requirements and show promise in eliminating Sarcoma for future Jareds or Johns. You can read about them by visiting the groups’ website. http://jaredsjuggernaut.org.
Jared and John had many parallels in their life beginnings and endings but hopefully their stories may encourage others to learn about Jareds Juggernaut To Cure Sarcoma and other such groups to ensure that a cure for all Sarcomas(about 50) will be found.