Jessie Rees was eleven years old and on a competition swimming team when one day she had trouble seeing. An MRI revealed a tumor located in the pons, right in the middle of the brain stem and interwoven with the nerves – diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma. It was inoperable.
Jessie's dad, Erik Rees, shares Jessie's story through his eyes. He writes about the diagnosis and the prognosis of twelve to eighteen months. Jessie saw other children fighting cancer and asked what they could do to help them. JoyJars were created, plastic jars stuffed with goodies for kids. Treatments began. A Facebook page was created and an early comment resonated with Jessie: “Never ever give up.” She adopted it as her mantra and shortened it to NEGU (knee-goo).
Rees is very honest about the toll on his family and the stress placed on relationships. He's honest about his arguments with doctors originating in his frustration with their failure to offer experimental treatment. He writes about the lessons they learned from their use of social media, the bad experiences with thoughtless responses from others. He shares his anguish of praying for healing again and again and his struggle with doubts about God.
He takes us through the treatments, the victories, the defeats, the second tumor, and the decline. He writes about his determination to see his daughter's mission to bring joy to juvenile cancer patients fulfilled.
This is an inspiring book about the difference one young cancer patient has made in the lives of many. Rees has written this book with the goal of increasing awareness of childhood cancer and increasing hope in people who are dealing with difficulties in their lives.
“I believe if we take the time to listen to our hearts about the things that bother us in the world and make the decision to do something rather than just feel bad about it, we can make life so much better for others and or ourselves.” (84)
The ministry that Jessie inspired goes on in the Jessie Rees Foundation. You can find out more about it at http://negu.org/, www.jessie.org, http://www.jessicajoyrees.com/, and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/JessieReesFoundation. You can watch a video on how the Jessie Rees Foundation got started here.
The only thing that makes this book less than perfect is the concentration on the father's experiences. He has included a chapter about himself, titled “becoming daddy.” I felt his wife and Jessie's mom, Stacey, was absent most of the book. Finally, on page 165 he writes, “This reminds me to say that my wife, Stacey, is simply amazing.” He goes on with his admiration of her but it just seemed odd to me that most of the book centers on his experiences and his feelings. About Jessie's headaches, he writes, “Thankfully, she didn't have any on November 19, which was my forty-third birthday.” (171)
Erik Rees is the chairman of the Jessie Rees Foundation. Through his leadership, Jessie's mission to encourage every kid fighting cancer to “Never Ever Give Up” is becoming a reality. He and his wife live in Orange Country, California, with their two children.
Jenna Glatzer is the author or ghostwriter of twenty-four books. Find out more at www.jennaglatzer.com.
Zondervan, 240 pages.
I received a complimentary copy of this book through Handlebar for the purpose of an independent and honest review.