Jesse was born in 1994 and came out a fighter. He always had an incredible zest for life, looking for the next adventure. From the time Jesse was a toddler he loved to wrestle. The more physical it got, the more he would laugh. We always wished wrestling had been offered in his schools. So, when we moved to Michigan we were thrilled that Fenton High School had a wrestling team and Jesse joined. Ironically, it was during wrestling practices that we noticed a paleness in his skin color and an absence of stamina. Consequently, we chose to have Jesse’s blood drawn and the morning of his first wrestling match we received a call from his physician with the results. Yes, the dreaded call… Jesse had cancer. I could not believe it! My stomach was sick and knotted up, my heart raced and all I could do was beg God over and over ….”Please do not take Jesse from me! I’m not ready for this! Please don’t take him from me now!” I attempted to pull myself together while my husband picked Jesse up from school. Upon pickup Jesse immediately knew something was wrong…”What is it Dad?” Scott informed him of the blood test results. Jesse about fell over in the high school hallway but managed to get to the truck. Shortly after, the three of us arrived at Hurley Medical Center for Jesse’s admission.
The first hours of admission were overwhelming…so many unknowns. Jesse’s anxiety increased as he endured more blood draws, an IV and was prepped for a spinal tap. We attempted to keep him grounded by encouraging him to think positive thoughts and remember good times. Prior to the sedation taking affect we got Jesse to share some of his favorite memories.
He went back to his childhood in his mind…recalling a jet ski experience with his Dad on Londo Lake when he was about 4 years old. He laughed as he remembered flying off the back and popping back up out of the water wanting to do it again. Fearless should have been his middle name.
Jesse was also shared thoughts about sitting in deer stands on the Hourigan family farm in Kentucky. He loved the peace of walking the land, hunting for deer, and not worrying about anything in life. Jesse had great hunting memories going back to 5 years old and was a phenomenal shot. Venison was a staple in our home. The Hourigan bond was one of his most favorite things…his Dad, Grandpa Buck, Uncles Tommy and Rob, Cousins Matthew and Marc, Cousin Jody (who always brought something for a “horse trade”). Annually they gathered to camp, hunt, bonfire, eat…just plain spend time together. It was during those times that Jesse’s dad could see all the stresses in his life go away.
Jesse also spoke of his love for baseball which began in North Carolina. He started playing ball later than most boys. As Jesse’s love for the game grew, he became quite an accomplished pitcher. At the age of 14, he really came into his own at an All Star game. On a sweltering July day, Jesse was put on the mound during the middle innings and closed out the game for a win. Nothing stole his focus. Not the heat. Not the enormity of what was on the line. He just threw and threw and threw and the team came away victorious. His high school games were the loves of his week. Coach Tuck nurtured his natural ability and really taught him the science of the game.
Since moving to Michigan the summer of 2011, Jesse had the opportunity to experience the love and support of family. He was thrilled by the number of family members that wanted to attend his summer baseball games… grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. This was something new to him because we never lived near family due to our many moves. Jesse’s connection with his Grandpa Gary and Grandma Andrea became greater than ever… on the baseball field, during everyday life experiences, at his hospital bed-side and home after medical treatments. It was such a blessing to be in Michigan.
Many memories were obviously shared before Jesse fell into his drug induced sleep. This was his first spinal tap and sadly, not his last. And it was just the beginning of tests Jesse would endure for the next 15 months.