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I would venture to guess that when Nancy Balin graduated from law school she didn’t see herself running a nonprofit raising money for scholarships for siblings affected by cancer. Even more of a stretch would be using the phrases “nut hut, family jewels, and testicles” on a regular basis. We don’t always pick our paths however. Sometimes the path picks us.
Balin’s stepson, Jaimeson Jones, died of testicular cancer in October of 2010 when he was only 20 years old. That was following his second valiant battle against the disease over a six-year period.
Jaimeson with his sister, Tara Jane Seymour and Samantha Seymour, taken in June 2010. (Photo by Nancy Balin)As it turns out, 14-year-old Jones was too embarrassed to tell his parents about the pain and swelling in his testicle for over a year. As a result, he was diagnosed at a very late stage of the cancer. Although he fought his way into remission that first time, when his cancer recurred at age 19, in spite of several rounds of aggressive chemotherapy and multiple surgeries, he lost the battle.
What haunts and drives Balin is the fact that: Testicular cancer is curable 95% of the time if caught early.
Much of the credit for that statistic must be given to oncologist Dr. Lawrence Einhorn of Indiana University, who is credited with major advances in the curative treatment of testicular cancer.
Credit also needs to be given to trailblazers like Balin who are willing to talk to ANYONE about testicular cancer and who are driven to educate the demographic of boys/men between 15-44 years old about it. Testicular cancer is the
#1 cancer of young men in this age group.
Instead of giving closing arguments in a courtroom, Balin is now spending her time educating young men about testicular cancer, organizing the annual Family Jewels 5K, thinking up new “Nut” and “Ball”-titled events to raise money for the Jaimeson Jones Memorial Scholarship, baking pies to bring to speaking events and to sell for the cause, and even driving for UBER occasionally - because who has time for a regular job?
Jeanne Johnston and Marsha Loicano posing in the Nut Hut. (Photo by Gini White Photography)Let’s face it, many young men – especially early in high school – are shy. They might not be so quick to share the news that their testicle was enlarged or that it was in pain for fear of embarrassment. Balin believes that was a critical factor in Jones’ cancer having time to spread. Additionally, during his routine and required sports physical many months before his diagnosis, his testicles were not examined by the doctor. She pleads, “Don’t die of embarrassment.”
Balin stresses the importance of education about the signs and symptoms of testicular cancer and that men do monthly self-exams. That is how the “Nut Hut” was born, which is a starring attraction at the upcoming Family Jewels 5K trail run. All attendees, both male and female, are encouraged to step inside and when they do they will find instructional signage about performing a self-check as well as facts and figures about the disease. In short, Balin said, “no lumps, no bumps, no pain, the same.” That statement she credits to a 4 year old whose mom created the poem in teaching him to perform self-checks in the bath. “If he can do it, you can,” she added.
Balin wants these monthly self-exams to become part of young men’s ritual just like breast exams have become commonplace for women. The foundation has created signs that can be hung in the shower as a reminder, along with educational materials. “If I can save one family, it is worth it,” Balin said.
Balin has spoken to Boy Scout groups, business groups, service organizations and community groups, as well as the captive audience in her car when driving for UBER. She is driven by this mission to educate. She urges you not to hesitate to contact her if you’d like her to speak to your group, troop, team or church. Note: She brings pie.
The Jaimeson Jones Memorial Scholarship stems from Jones knowing that his family was turned upside down while dealing with his cancer treatment, not only emotionally but financially. Balin said that shortly before his death, he let the family know that he wanted his college savings to go to his two younger sisters. This generous act inspired the foundation, which provides scholarships to siblings of local students who have suffered from childhood cancer.
Standley Douglas crossing the finish line in 2017. (Photo by Gini White Photography)Why a 5K run? Jones was a cross-country runner at Bothell High School and loved to run. It seemed only fitting to organize a 5K run in his memory to raise money for the memorial scholarships. This year marks the 8th annual run.
How does pie fit in? Jaimeson’s birthday was March 14, and that so happens to be the mathematical equation for Pi (3.14). He was a pie-lover as well. Balin decided to create the only 5K run with a pie table, featuring her homemade individual pies for every participant in the event. Her pie is so popular that some people register and only come for the pie. Balin says that is just fine with her, and that is why there are the 5K run, 2.5K walk and the “zero K just sit and eat pie” categories for the Family Jewels event.
One way or another, I was inspired and impressed with Nancy Balin and her dedication to educating the public about testicular cancer and raising money to help families affected by it. She modestly said, “I love it.”
8th annual Family Jewels 5K
Saturday, March 10, 9:00 a.m. start
Saint Edward State Park
(14445 Juanita Drive NE, Kenmore), near the playground.
Register by February 28 for discounted rate. Registration includes an event shirt and Nancy Balin’s famous PIE!
To register, or make a donation, for the 2018 Family Jewels 5K, visit FamilyJewels.education. Please use the group code WoodinvilleWeekly for $5 off.