Fighting for Stovall: Family battles to save eldest son with cancer

Published on Saturday, 10 May 2014 22:27 - Written by Coshandra Dillard cdillard@tylerpaper.com

The Stovalls, of Athens, are a loving family fighting the greatest battle of their lives. In fact, Fighting for Stovall is the motto that’s printed on T-shirts and a Facebook page.

Jonathan Stovall, 20, is up against an incurable cancer — stage 4 primary pulmonary synovial sarcoma.

When he had surgery to remove a tumor identified in imaging, doctors found there were multiple tumors, some up to 5 centimeters in diameter. There are tumors in his right lung, and the cancer spread to his esophagus, diaphragm and pericardium, the lining surrounding his heart.

He was diagnosed with the extremely rare cancer on May 3, 2013.

In addition to support from their church, Faith Church of Athens, they’ve gotten prayers, donations and fundraising efforts from others in the community and around the world.

An upcoming fundraiser, organized by cousin, Sheila Browning, will be held in Chandler on May 17.

Unable to work, Stovall laments at the fact that he can’t help out more. He and his wife, Erica, moved into his parent’s home in February.

However, he was recently approved for disability and Dallas-based Rumble for Cancer has given the young couple a car.

The group, along with East Texas Bikers will sponsor a 100-mile ride at the May 17 event. It will be held at noon at the Pine Creek Hideaway Rustic Weddings venue to offset medical, lodging and transportation costs for the family.

Live music, dinner, a Johnny Depp impersonator, raffles and a bake sale are all included in the program.

“We’ve been surprised and humbled by all of it,” Mrs. Stovall said.

Other events are being planned, including a sing-spiration in June at the family’s church.

“We’re all pretty emotional, actually,” Stovall said. “We don’t know how to thank them all. We don’t have the words to thank them all.”

 

GETTING ON WITH LIFE

Stovall has been hospitalized more days than he can count and has undergone nine rounds of chemotherapy. Nonetheless, he said he feels good now.

Soon, he’ll travel back to Houston for more chemotherapy at M.D. Anderson.

Stovall learned about his cancer diagnosis just before he was to marry Erica. They bumped up wedding plans before he started treatments.

“We had to bump it up because I was going to start chemotherapy and I wanted to have hair for the wedding,” Stovall joked.

His wife was supportive early on.

“From the first symptoms to diagnosis to now, she’s been there with him and been there for him,” Mrs. Stovall said.

For the 20-year-old newlywed, it was easy to do.

“When you love somebody you’re with them through sickness and health,” Erica Stovall said. “Just because he was diagnosed wasn’t going to mean anything to me. I wanted to be there every step of the way; there wasn’t a question in my mind.”

The couple also sped up the decision to grow their family. They welcomed a daughter, Isabella, two months ago.

“It was a little ray of sunshine we were looking for,” Stovall said.

Throughout this battle, his mother noted his ability to face challenges with an optimistic attitude.

“Jonathan is not a person who wants anyone to feel sorry for him,” Mrs. Stovall said. “He don’t want anyone to look at him with pity. He wants people to look at him as a strong person, that he’s positive. When the doctors told him his cancer was incurable, his first words were, ‘That’s OK. God’s got this.’”

 

HELD TOGETHER BY FAITH

On the back of Fighting for Stovall T-shirts, it reads, Exodus 14:14, a biblical scripture that states: “The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”

The Stovall’s religious faith has gotten the family through trying times. They’ve been hit from every direction — physically, emotionally and financially. Mrs. Stovall has taken a medical leave to help with her son. His father, Stephen, stays behind to provide for the family and look after Stevie, Jonathan Stovall’s brother, who has cerebral palsy and cystic fibrosis and needs around-the-clock care.

“We’re in this together. We’re a family and we love each other,” she said, fighting back tears. “None of us could do it by ourselves. We know that it is stressful. It’s hard at times, but because we are so close, that’s what brings us through it.”

Stovall added, “If it wasn’t for everybody, then I probably wouldn’t be here at the moment. It’s the family support that keeps me going. If I didn’t have the family, the wife and the daughter, then really I wouldn’t have had anything to keep fighting for.”