Jason Jura recounts the night that he learned of his mother’s passing, “I received a call sometime in the middle of the night, and when the phone rang, I knew it could only mean one thing.” Sarah Jura was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic pancreatic cancer in early February, 2006. She had been feeling unwell for a while, but she put off her own medical needs to spend time with her gravely ill father. Sarah, who worked as a nurse, knew that something was wrong, but she canceled doctor appointments to travel to be with her father before he passed away.
Because her cancer was already so advanced by the time it was discovered, chemotherapy was the only treatment option available for her. At the time, Jason was attending Carnegie Mellon University. He immediately changed his weekend plans and made the five-hour drive home to be with his family. Jason recalls the first conversation he had with his parents about his mother’s prognosis “I had no idea what pancreatic cancer meant, other than that it was a cancer and that treatments and odds for recovering from cancers, in general, were going up. When my parents talked to me about it, they immediately made sure I was aware of how terrible pancreatic cancer is, and that such a small percentage even survive for just a few years.”
Jason, a busy college student and collegiate runner, was not able to be home with his mom during her battle as often as he would have liked to have been. His parents did their best to shelter their three sons, Patrick, Jason and Ryan, from the worst of Sarah’s illness. No matter how poorly she felt, Sarah made the trip to watch Jason compete in track meets that spring.
In early 2007, while Jason was home from college over winter break, his mother’s health began to decline. She was unable to eat and digest food properly and her doctor planned to place a stent to help open up the passage from her intestines to her stomach. Jason told his parents that he could miss the first week or two of track practice to be at home with his family during this time, but his parents urged him to return to school. They believed that it would be better for him to come home on weekends in the future when his mother was recovered from her procedure. Unfortunately, things did not turn out the way they had hoped. Sarah passed away just days after the stent placement.
“My mother was a pretty amazing woman. When she was younger, she was an artist. It showed all through her life with the things she made for Christmas gifts, for holiday decorations, and just everything that I grew up with,” Jason recalls. She spent much of her time as a stay-at-home-mom taking care of her three sons. A very caring human being, it made sense that she eventually moved into nursing as her career. Jason says, “She always cared so much about others, whether it was helping patients, doing things for family or taking care of us kids.”
Jason, who obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Master of Production Development from Carnegie Melon, took some time following his mother’s death to be with his father and travel around the United States and Europe. He now lives in Peoria, IL and works for Caterpillar in machine research. Jason makes his family a priority and often travels home to Maryland to spend time with his relatives. He also takes a week each year to meet up with his mother’s three sisters and their families in Martha’s Vineyard.
Jason competed in Track and Field and Cross Country throughout high school and college. He is trying to get back into racing shape, but has found it difficult at times to motivate himself to train without being on a team. Enter the Project Purple Tough Mudder team. A co-worker of Jason’s has been encouraging him to do a Tough Mudder. Jason initially was not interested in participating, until he saw that he could do it with a charity partner. He had previously raised money for pancreatic cancer research, and when he saw that Project Purple was a charity partner for a Tough Mudder within driving distance, he was officially in.
The Tough Mudder has particular meaning for Jason. He explains, “My team had qualified for Division 3 Nationals in Cross Country and I was the fifth guy on our team. If you aren’t familiar with how Cross Country is scored, you take the places of the top five runners from each team, with a goal of having the lowest score (15 is a perfect score with 1,2,3,4,5 placings). My father called me the day before the race to wish me luck, but also told me that it might be the last race my mom is alive to hear about, and to put everything I had into it. Not that you don’t do that in every race, but it was extra motivation for when the race got tough 3.5 miles into a 5 mile race. The news was startling to me, because up until then I had heard nothing but stories of how well treatments had been going. In any event, it had rained the entire week leading up to the race, making the course extremely muddy. I believe the winner, and National Champion, won the race running about three minutes slower than his personal best time. I ended up running well, and helped our team to finish 12th. I like the connection of running that race in such wet and muddy conditions to raising money in support of pancreatic cancer research by doing a Tough Mudder Race.”
Please make a tax-deductible donation to Jason’s Project Purple Tough Mudder fundraiser at the following link on Crowdrise: