My seminary kids ask me all the time if Jake and I dated or were good friends in high school. When I tell them the truth, “No, not really.” they are always very surprised and want to know why. Though our paths did cross miraculously before Jake graduated, I always just admired him from afar, usually from the pep band section of the gym or bleachers.
I was one of the few flutes in the Parowan High Band, and I wasn’t good. I practiced hard though and had a good time in the band. I enjoyed practicing the pep band music, but I always blushed intensely when I had to play at the games. One of the songs we learned was “Celebration” by Kool and The Gang. We’d play it after Jake and Caleb managed to win whatever sport for the season we happened to be in the middle of.
I graduated from SUU with my Bachelor’s Degree in December 2017. Jake and I walked in the graduation ceremony together in the spring of 2018 and he finished his degree in the summer of 2018. On the cold December day after I finished up all my finals and was technically a college grad, Jake woke up early and led me to the kitchen. He got our Alexa’s attention and had her play “Celebration” by Kool & The Gang.
He danced around the whole kitchen with me and sang loudly at my accomplishment. It was one of my favorite days.
Last Sunday Jake and I got to speak at a fireside for the LaVerkin Stake. It was so fun to meet some of the students Jake teaches. We were asked to speak on the new youth theme this year, John 14:15 “If ye love me, keep my commandments”.
As Jake got up to share his message, I noticed it wasn’t what he had originally planned to share. He started sharing a timeline with these kids and parents. He started with about a year ago.
We were finishing up our student teaching in Cedar and waiting to hear about full-time hire. Fast forward a few months and we were on our way to Disneyland to celebrate two full time positions.
Fast forward a few more months and we received our assignments to stay in Southern Utah- an absolute dream come true. We were able to find the perfect home for us and we were loving life.
Jake told this congregation of kids he loves that as we began our full-time jobs and worked on making our house a home, his health started to decline. After doctors’ appointments and many tests and procedures we learned that Jake has Stage 4 Classic Hodgkin Lymphoma.
I watched the whole congregation watch him for his next words. He told them we had been completely stopped in our tracks. Everything had been going so well. Now this?
He told the audience he wasn’t telling this story to make them feel bad or to make the meeting too serious or heavy. Jake's response to treatment has been really great, and we have received so many blessings throughout this entire process. He said he just wanted them to understand two things.
1. Even when we do our very best to keep the commandments, hard things still come.
2. When we do our best to keep the commandments, when the hard things come, we don’t need to be afraid. The Lord will help us.
Chemotherapy treatment #8 went great. Jake’s counts and labs are still “so pretty” in the words of our oncologist.
We’re looking forward to celebrating Jake's 23rd birthday tomorrow! We're looking forward to celebrating our first full year of teaching full-time. We're looking forward to celebrating these last four treatments. We’re looking forward to celebrating being cancer free.
I don’t think we’ll be able to play “Celebration” loud or long enough.
Maybe I’ll have to get my flute back out. That’ll make Jake happy.
Haircuts and Timeouts
Some of my greatest memories take place in my mom’s hair salon. When we lived in Kanab an addition built under our carport was home to “Jamie’s Hair-Cutting Cottage”. My mom had her product displayed on a beautiful shelf, and the shop was decorated with burgundy roses and vintage looking chairs and mirrors. I used to spend hours with her sitting in the shop as she talked with clients.
I remember dreaming of becoming a “shampoo girl”. I figured my mom and I could work together when I was older. I could wash hair and she could cut and color it.
In each house we lived in my mom made part of our house the shop. I remember playing with perm rods or pretending to cut my dolls’ hair with my play scissors and styling it with my pretend blow-dryer.
My sisters and I sat in the hair chair in front of the big mirror each morning to do our hair or makeup before school. I still get ready there when I go home.
I think my favorite memories of the shop are times when I got to be the client. My mom still has the cape she used for all of our first haircuts. She would lower the hydraulic chair all the way down so I could hop on and then pump it way up so she could reach my hair. Sometimes I sat on a cushion to help me sit a little taller.
I’d have to sit very still and straight, never crossing my legs or moving as she carefully cut my dark brown hair.
After my hair was styled, my mom would turn the chair around so my back was to the mirror. She would then give me a hand mirror and guide it to the perfect position. With her help, I could see the reflection of the back of my head.
I thought it was pure magic.
I could see my bob, my perm, or my highlights from the back.
I’d request to see the back when she’d braid my hair before school or when she finished curling it before church.
I loved to see what it looked like from the back.
After particularly cute hairstyles my mom would even snap a picture of the back of our heads just to remember what we looked like.
We finished another chemotherapy treatment yesterday. We can count the rest on one hand. Five to go! Jake’s counts still look incredible, and we’re just moving right along.
While we sat through treatment I asked Jake what he wanted to do when we got home, he said, “watch basketball”. I could have guessed. We have game after game recorded that Jake and I watch in the evenings. Basketball must have been on his brain because he used it to teach me something beautiful yesterday.
Before we fell asleep last night I asked Jake what he wanted his fans to know. He taught me about timeouts.
Jake said one of the greatest privileges a coach can offer a player is calling a timeout for them. It means he really needs them in the game, but he’ll give them a break to catch their breath. Instead of just pulling the player out, they stop the whole game until he’s ready to play.
Now the timeouts aren’t long, but they can allow a player to finish the game.
We have lots of people ask how treatment is going. It has been such a blessing to be able to honestly reply, “Awesome!!”, “Really good”, or even “Better than we thought!”. Another reply has entered the mix, “Chemo is quite the process”.
And it is.
In the middle of tough trials or things that are “quite the process”, it can be easy to get tired or impatient. It’s times like that I’d ask my mom how much longer was on the timer for color to be processed or if she was almost done with my layers.
It’s times like that we anxiously look to the coach in hopes of a timeout.
Our Heavenly Father needs us all in the game, even in the tough times in our lives. So, he gives us timeouts. He lets us look at our hair from the back. He gives us glimpses of why we’re here, what we’re learning, and what it’s for.
We are grateful for the process, and grateful to a Heavenly Father who stops the game and reminds us why we play.
My name is Maddie Townsend Topham and I am a happy wife!