He’s 31 with a 4-year-old and a cancer diagnosis. A nonprofit is helping them make memories for generations

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — If you ask anyone who has ever fought cancer, they’ll tell you the physical pain is intense, but the emotional pain is overpowering. There’s an organization out there that recognizes that. The Jack and Jill Foundation for Late Stage Cancer is specifically for young families with parents battling cancer. Parents like Taylor Thorup. He and his wife Kymberly sat on their couch and looked through a photo album together. It took days of pre-planning to get Taylor ready and able to sit upright for an hour. Pill bottles sat nearby. Accustomed to it all, Kymberly pointed to a photo in the album. “There’s William at the arcade,” she said, pointing out their four year old son who had an intense focus on his face in the picture. Kymberly then reminded Taylor of all the other things William did at the arcade. “Oh, he got a stuffed animal and a glitter tattoo and ice cream and candy. He had so much fun,” she said. A picture is worth a thousand words. Kymberly and Taylor Thorup’s home is filled with reminders of happiness, and lots of pictures. But how do you capture a lifetime of conversations, and moments, and memories in a simple photograph? “The type of cancer I have is called Fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma,” he said. “Yeah. It’s a mouthful.” It’s also relentless. This is Taylor’s third time battling cancer in five years. He’s 31 years old, and his odds aren’t good.
Every day, more than 4,700 people are diagnosed with cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. Statistically, the government statistics show the disease will kill a third of them. Taylor’s palliative care physician recently wrote him a prescription for a new medicine: one specifically for conversations, moments, and memories. “To have an opportunity to have a tool like this,” Dr. Christian Sinclair said. “To make a bad situation a little more tolerable, to give those memories to patients.” He gave them a prescription for a quick vacation away from drug trials and doctors offices. The Jack and Jill Late Stage Cancer Foundation filled it. “What the Jack and Jill Late Stage Cancer Foundation does is patients who have young children and are going through cancer treatment for a pretty serious illness just get a fantastic experience,” Dr. Sinclair said. “For a couple of days, they can really forget about their illness.” “I think these trips really start as a family experience,” the palliative care physician said. “But in planning for it and anticipating it and hearing the follow up, we really do see, just the outlook on things, change. And that perspective thing – I think there’s a lot of healthy medicine inside of that we can’t put into a pill.” The Thorups had a perfect, all-inclusive three day getaway to Great Wolf Lodge at the Legends. Just far enough to escape everything they want to ignore. “It didn’t really hit until we got into the room and we took a deep breath,” Taylor said. “And just thought, ‘Wow. We get to spend three days here and just not have to worry.'” “It was even fun just to see Taylor get in the pool with William and watch him go down the water slides and having all that time just to be dad,” Kymberly┬á said. “Not to be going to doctors appointments, and what our life regularly is.” That was a first. As long as William’s been alive, his father has been cheating cancer. That means he’s been growing up with a man who doesn’t have enough energy some days to play catch, go to the park or even get out of bed. For a few glorious days, Taylor got to be the Dad cancer wouldn’t let him be. “There were a lot of firsts that we got to see there,” Taylor said with a grin. “It was great to be able to watch, like, some of those firsts, like going underwater and going down the slides and everything.” The Thorup family savored every splash because they don’t know how many firsts they have left together. “That’s one of the things that weighs down on me every day,” Taylor said. “All of the things that I might miss. And obviously, I want to be there for all of them, but that’s not possible. So even being able to see a few of these firsts – at the Great Wolf Lodge – was great. It’s part of solidifying those memories.” The Thorup’s photo book of their time at Great Wolf Lodges a treasured keepsake. “I think it’s for William,” Kymberly said. “Definitely for William, so he has some photo memories, that he can talk about,” Taylor said. “But obviously, it’s for you as well. So that you can remind him.” The Thorup’s photo album was put together by the Jack and Jill Foundation. Over the last 14 years, its compiled more than a thousand albums for families across the United States. The organization’s founder Jon Albert knows how important memories are. “I hate why I started the Jack and Jill Late Stage Cancer Foundation,” he told FOX4 this past spring. Jon lost his wife Jill to cancer years ago. “Jill was truly afraid that our children would forget her,” he said. “They were 7 and 9 when she was diagnosed, and they were 11 and 13 when she passed.” “So we’re the only organization in the country who says, ‘what about the 9-year-old who is about to lose their mom?’ Or a 14-year-old who is about to lose his dad?'” He said. Cancer steals so much from families. That’s why the foundation exists – to give a family a few days together and away from cancer. “The cruelest part of late stage cancer is the emotion,” Jon said. “You can take medicine to mask the physical pain, but how do you turn your heart off at three in the morning? And for a young mom or dad to be afraid that their young children will forget them is just a cruel side effect of what is already a disgusting disease.” That’s why Jon said his goal is to make memories that will last a lifetime, and then some. “It’s not WHERE they go, it’s THAT they go,” said. “Because the real dream, the real wish for these families – is time. Positive time together.” Because the best part of memories is the time you spend making them. The University of Kansas Health System recently began a partnership with the Jack and Jill Foundation. Typically, the foundation works with onocologists. “This is their first partnership with palliative care physicians,” explained Dr. Sinclair, “just on quality of life issues. So it felt like a really good match up.”

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