A Christmas to Remember

Greg (l) and John (r) LaPres of Muskegon

John LaPres’ doctor called on Christmas Eve 2013. Weeks before, John had been diagnosed with a large stomach ulcer.

The call was to let John know it was cancer, not an ulcer, and not just any cancer; it rarely had been diagnosed in the United States. And, it was stage IV.

“I didn’t know what it meant,” said John. “All I knew was that anyone who had cancer died. In my mind, it was a death sentence.”

The LaPres family — all seven sons and their families — came for Christmas. John told each son, one by one, about his diagnosis. There were tears and prayers. Yet, from the start, John placed his future in God’s hands.

John’s chance of survival was less than 20 percent.

The chemotherapy and surgery made him ill for months. On top of that was the cost of his medication each week — $456. Unbeknownst to John, the Mercy Health Johnson Family Cancer Center staff arranged for his co-pays to be covered 100 percent. It was a huge relief.

As time went on, John began to feel better. He asked his doctor about his chances again and, he said, “We’re up to 75 percent.” Later, at his five-year checkup, the doctor reported even more good news. “We don’t get many stage IV cancers that after five years haven’t returned.”

“I really felt the miracle of my survival,” said John. “I knew that no matter what happens it is going to be okay because He holds the reigns.” John drew strength from his family as well.

“When Dad first got cancer, he had to tell everyone on Christmas Day,” said Greg LaPres, John’s second son. “I didn’t know how bad it was. He didn’t tell us he had stage IV. I thought they had caught it early, but that is not how it turned out. As we learned more and more, it got scary. He seemed upbeat, but we knew the odds weren’t good.”

Ever since his father’s cancer battle, Greg’s work with Cars for Cancer has become more meaningful. For the past 14 years, Greg has been helping to raise funds for the Mercy Health Johnson Family Cancer Center through the Labor Day Cars for Cancer Car Show and the pancake breakfast hosted by the Different Strokes Car Club and the Knights of Columbus. In 2019, the event organizers presented an astounding $54,400 in proceeds to the Johnson Family Cancer Center (JFCC) for services, technologies and patients in need.

When you don’t have some of the worries that go with cancer — and have some of those taken off of your mind — that can give you peace,” said John. “That’s what Cars for Cancer is about.”

Greg hopes those who are touched by cancer will see the good Cars for Cancer does for people they do not know.

“Maybe this will lighten the mental burden for others. I hope they feel they are not alone, that someone’s already there waiting for them,” said Greg. “When it is your turn to get cancer we are already here.”

“My dad was not supposed to beat this; almost everybody with this cancer is a fatality,” said Greg. “It’s a great feeling that he’s still out there and active. He says he has a lazy life, but he does errands and yard work, encourages others through AA meetings, works the fish fries at our church, visits friends, and even helps my brother who is disabled.”

This year, John LaPres and his family will have a Christmas to remember thanks to his medical team at Mercy Health Johnson Family Cancer Center. And, thanks to Cars for Cancer, many Mercy Health cancer patients will feel the impact of Cars for Cancer throughout the new year.

Mercy Health Muskegon Office of Philanthropy

1 thought on “A Christmas to Remember”

  1. It was inspiring to hear of the fund raisers that provide patients with financial help with the expenses that
    are incurred when you have cancer. You see that you should never give up Hope when you have a cancer
    diagnosis.

    Reply

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