UINTAH HIGHLANDS — When Jonathan Whitesides got a double-whammy diagnosis of diabetes and cancer last month, he did what made the most sense to him. He threw a party.
“I’ve always heard people say a positive attitude is the best thing to have when you are battling cancer. So I decided instead of sitting around and worrying, I’ll throw a party,” he said.
Nearly 100 people showed up at the home of his parents, Peggy and Jay Whitesides. Forty of them, including Jonathan, shaved their heads to support his first day of chemotherapy. His wife and sister even cut 10 inches off their own hair.
“My doctor told me that it’s pretty depressing, even for men, when their hair starts falling out, so I would rather just get it over with now,” Whitesides said.
The 30-year-old and his wife, Gloria, were having dinner with friends when one of them, a medical student, noticed he was consuming a lot of water. He suggested Whitesides be tested for diabetes.
“I followed his advice and went in to see my doctor at the Tanner Clinic,” he said. “While I was there he noticed my heart rate was fast, so he ran some more tests.”
The doctor came back with the news. Whitesides had Type I diabetes and a mass in his chest. The diagnosis would later be thymic cancer. Nearly 90 percent of this type of cancer is benign. Whitesides, however, fell into the other 10 percentile. His was malignant.
Writing in his blog, he said, “Too bad I can’t have this luck with the lottery or winning tickets to see the World Cup.”
Thymus cancers are uncommon cancers that start in the thymus, according to the American Cancer Society’s website. This small organ is located just behind the breast bone in the front part of the space in the chest between the lungs. Approximately 400 people per year are diagnosed with this type of cancer.
“I don’t know what the cure rate is, and I don’t want to know,” Whitesides said. “When you go by statistics, you resign yourself to the statistical numbers. I believe that nothing happens by coincidence and that the hand of the Lord is present in all aspects of our lives.”
Whitesides’ mother, Peggy, said her son has always been healthy. In fact, he didn’t miss one day of school during his elementary years.
“He’s always been a really good kid, too,” she said. “When we adopted him from Mexico, we wanted to name him Levi because that is his family name. But his brother, Ben, who was 3 years old at the time insisted we name him Jonathan, so we did.
“We later found out the name means ‘Gift of God’ and that has rung true for our family.”
After Ben shaved Jonathan’s hair, Jonathan got to shave Ben’s in return. He also got to help shave brother-in-law Jefferson Moyano’s thick head of hair.
Since his diagnosis, Whitesides said his friends and family have provided enormous support and love. Members of his Spanish-speaking LDS ward in Syracuse have brought in meals, cleaned up his yard and came by the house to visit, he said.
“I am amazed and so grateful for the friends and family I have in my life,” he said. “I know this isn’t an easy thing for them to do, especially my wife and sister cutting 10 inches off of their hair. I can’t even imagine going through this without the love and support of everyone in my life.”
You can follow Whitesides’ journey on his blog at