At the end of August, sportswriter Jonathan Tjarks and his wife, Melissa, got the heartbreaking news they’d been preparing for. Doctors recommended Jonathan enter hospice care at home after battling a rare form of cancer — a BCOR-CCNB3 sarcoma — since April 2021.
The announcement came as part of an update Melissa provided on Jonathan’s condition. Rapidly growing tumors have paralyzed him from the belly down, and his physical condition, combined with the specific mutations that were discovered, severely limit the potential treatment options.
There's no easy way to say this. I've been diagnosed with cancer. The doctors aren't entirely sure what kind it is, but they think it is one of two kinds of sarcomas. I've already begun chemotherapy. Please keep me, my wife and our one-year old son in your prayers.
— Jonathan Tjarks (@JonathanTjarks) April 26, 2021
At the end of the update, Melissa shared how thankful their family was for the eternal hope they have in Christ.
“We’ve been facing this beast for a year and a half. Cancer is so cruel,” she wrote. “It has stolen so much from us. I don’t know where we would be if we didn’t have God’s love, Jesus’ sacrifice, and the hope of heaven. Jon and I may be separated by death sooner than we’d like, but at least that’s not the end forever.”
Johnathan, who works for The Ringer, has put his faith on display during his battle with cancer and given glory to God despite the emotional and physical toll it is taking on him. In May 2021, he wrote a piece called “The Long Night of the Soul” in which he reflected on his diagnosis and discussed what he learned reading through the Gospels after being told he had cancer.
Jonathan’s main takeaway was that even though Jesus knew He was going to die on the cross, He didn’t behave like someone who was ready for their life to end when He and the disciples went to the garden of Gethsemane after the Last Supper.
“I don’t care how strong your faith is,” Jonathan wrote in the piece. “Staring into the abyss will make you question everything. I wish getting through it were as simple as quoting a few Bible verses and then going to bed.”
He also has a personal blog where he writes about a variety of topics, including the Bible. His most recent post is an extensive summary of the Book of Isaiah that was published in February.
Jonathan came on the Sports Spectrum Podcast in October 2021 to talk about how his faith has been tested since his diagnosis and the comfort it’s brought him as he is forced to face his own mortality. He compared the foundational aspects of the Christian faith to a playbook for a sports team. Believing God is good when everything is going well is one thing. Continuing to trust in God in the midst of such difficult circumstances is an entirely different type of challenge.
“It’s almost like these are things you’ve been given as, like, a playbook for when your life gets hard,” he said on the podcast. “But when it actually does happen, you actually have to follow the plays, right? Because you don’t want to at that point. You don’t want to at all.”
Melissa ended her update by reminding everyone that God is still at work through all the pain and grief, and she included 2 Corinthians 4:7-18, where the apostle Paul talks about viewing troubles through the lens of God’s eternal glory.
“This journey hasn’t been easy, and it’s likely to get even harder,” Melissa said. “There are some promises from God that we cling to: he loves us and he loves Jackson, he will redeem our suffering, he’s been faithful and will continue to be faithful, and he will be there with us carrying us through it all. We may not know ‘why’ this side of heaven, but God does, and he’s trustworthy.”
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