When Jessica Cox of Springville celebrated her youngest child’s first birthday in July, she was also celebrating the end of more than a month of her own treatment at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. She was celebrating life.
At the close of a year that saw the unexpected death of her brother, a mysterious sickness, a cancer diagnosis and finally chemotherapy treatment, 33-year-old Cox continues to cling to her faith and plan for the future.
On May 6, the day of his daughter’s wedding, Cox’s older brother died suddenly. The family, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, still went through with the wedding, and Cox participated in the festivities despite the fact that she was feeling ill. After a priesthood blessing from her husband later that night to help her sleep, she woke up the next morning still sick and with bruises covering her calves.
“I just thought it was grief from losing my brother,” she said during an interview.
However, Cox’s condition worsened as the days passed. She went to an urgent care facility in mid-May and learned that her blood platelet count was less than 30 percent of what it should be. The doctor recommended she see a specialist, but the earliest available specialist appointment wasn’t until July.
“I told them that the onset of symptoms had taken only three weeks,” Cox said. “I knew in my core that I wouldn’t be here by July 11 for that specialist appointment if I didn’t get help.”
After the visit to urgent care, Cox went to her father and told him what she was experiencing.
“I didn’t want to scare them (my parents) at first because they were dealing with my brother passing away so recently, but I told him, ‘I think I’m dying,’” she said.
Cox’s father gave her another priesthood blessing on May 26, and the words of that blessing became the support she leaned on throughout her subsequent diagnosis and treatment.
“Heavenly Father wanted me to know that whatever it was, that I was going to be OK and I shouldn’t be scared,” said Cox.
In the months that have since passed, Cox has lived by those words and relied on her faith in God. On May 27, she went to the emergency room, where a doctor told her he thought she had cancer. She spent the night in the hospital, and she said her brother who had died in May spent the night there with her in spirit.
The next day, Cox was admitted to the Huntsman Cancer Institute, where she remained for 40 days. She was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia, a white blood cell cancer that has the potential to cause early death if it is not detected and treated quickly.
Even as Cox endured intravenous chemotherapy and was separated from her children for her entire hospital stay — to prevent infection, kids weren’t allowed to visit — visitors said they could feel her faith and confidence. Cox’s neighbor Katie Rich went to visit her at the Huntsman Cancer Institute with another friend.
“I went into her room, and she was all hooked up to an IV and monitors, and she was tired,” Rich said. “She had been through a lot … but I was amazed at how confident she was that she was going to beat this. In her voice, in the way that she talked about it, there was no doubt. And she shared that it came down to this blessing she got from her dad.”
Cox maintained hope and made it a goal to return home by July.
“My youngest was turning 1 in July, and I kept telling them, ‘I need to be home by my baby’s first birthday,’” Cox said. “And I was, and that was a blessing.”
Now that she has finished IV chemotherapy, she will continue with oral chemotherapy for two more years. Through everything, Cox has remembered the blessing her father gave her. Even as she was separated from her three children, ages 6, 4 and 1, and experiencing the effects of chemotherapy, she kept her faith in the promises of the blessing.
“I knew that Heavenly Father had me no matter what,” she said.
While she relied on God, Cox also relied on her family and the people around her. During her hospital stay, her parents took care of her two younger children while her oldest child was at school and her husband, Travis, was at work. Her condition has caused reduced mobility, so her parents and her husband’s family continue to help out.
Cox is not giving up; she is looking forward. She has returned to work as a para-educator teaching children to read at American Leadership Academy, and she has enrolled in classes in the BYU-Idaho Pathway program on the way to earning a degree. Rich said Cox’s attitude inspires faith in others.
“Not only does she express that confidence that she would make it through, I think it shows in her actions that she means it, that she’s going to be here for her kids, for her family, for her community,” Rich said.
Although her treatment will continue for years, Cox is confident in God's promises. She said she relied on the priesthood blessing through the most difficult days.
“It was those days that I needed to remember that Heavenly Father already gave me my answer,” she said. “I just need to remember to endure it well.”
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