As an optometrist, Jim Huber got to know his patients every day as he cared for their vision. One patient in particular made a striking impact when he told Jim he was dying of colon cancer, especially as they discussed the symptoms that led to the young man’s diagnosis – symptoms like blood in his stool. Having experienced rectal bleeding off and on for years himself, hearing this young man’s story was alarming to Jim. “I did not want this to be my fate, so I scheduled a colonoscopy.” On September 1, 2016, he would wake up from that colonoscopy to learn he, too, had colorectal cancer.
Jim’s initial feeling and expectation wasn’t optimistic, but his wife, Sharon, was determined to be positive. “She responded by telling me it was a bump on the road and I would beat it.” Jim’s optimism began to grow as he saw the support and encouragement from friends and family encircle him, Sharon, and their two young children, Braden and Fallon. Meeting other cancer patients also brought a sense of calm into the chaos, and as he found the support he needed to ease any fears about treatment and overcoming this disease.
An additional challenge for Jim and Sharon was helping their two kids navigate the changes that had disrupted life as they knew it. At ages 5 and 3, his son and daughter were old enough to know something wasn’t right with their dad, but not quite old enough to understand the complexities of cancer and what it would mean for their lives. “We just explained that I was sick and would need treatment longer than a typical cold. I would be taking time off from work, and be taking a special medication.” Jim was fortunate in the beginning in that he looked “normal” on the outside, so there weren’t any physical changes for his kids to see on a daily basis that would increase their concern.
Unfortunately, Jim’s disease wasn’t easy to hide for long, and as the cancer progressed and complications arose it became necessary to have more revealing and detailed conversations with Braden, now 8, and Fallon, 6, about what was going on and what they could expect to see. “They still do not understand the gravity of the situation. We are still trying to work through how to answer questions as they come.” Braden is also now starting play therapy to help him process all he is experiencing with his dad’s illness.
As much as cancer is a physical challenge for the body, its repercussions can impact every corner of your life. Mental health, financial hardships, relationships, and careers can take a hit. When asked, however, Jim says the hardest part is facing the fact that he might not be here to continue raising his son and daughter, and to be there for them in the future. “Despite multiple surgeries and chemotherapy treatments, the cancer keeps coming back stronger and has spread to more organs.” It’s the hardest and most heartbreaking reality to face as a parent.
While being surrounded by what seems like impossible decisions and unimaginable futures, looking for the light amidst the darkness can offer hope and inspiration for anyone facing long odds. For Jim and Sharon, their light is “the love and support we have gotten from our family, friends, neighbors, youth baseball family, teachers, and our community. I hope Braden and Fallon learn how important it is to be surrounded by such good people. I also hope they will look back and see that no matter how difficult something in life may be, that you continue to fight. We are HuberStrong.” Despite the many upsets, shocks, and disappointments Jim has faced as a result of his cancer, he still want to offer hope to others facing a cancer diagnosis.
“Try to find the one thing in your life that keeps you pushing through. For me it’s my wife and kids. Going to see them dance or play baseball is what motivates me to get up each day.”