No 19-year-old should ever be told they have cancer, but when Jackson learned about his diagnosis, he faced it with a gravitas that is often saved for the greatest leaders and icons of our time.
It is rare that parents are so incredibly humbled by their children. Especially when that child is a young man of 19 years old, just beginning to touch the edge of what he’s capable of – just beginning to explore the life lessons that only the highs and lows can bring. And then, packing some of the greatest life learnings into a four-year fight for his life that would change the lives of so many.
Never did we believe that a tiny, beautiful human being, born to us on December 20, 1998, would teach us more than all the degrees, travels, and careers we’ve packed into this life of ours. Jackson Byck is a warrior. He brought more humility, grace, humor, and love to our family than we could have ever dreamed.
On November 4, 2018, Jackson was diagnosed with Ocular Melanoma (“OM” for short). Because of his genetic predisposition and the size of the tumor, his life expectancy was set at a brief 6 months. That was four years ago.
What emerged from that initial diagnosis in our son is nothing short of a miracle. He calmly reached out for help, he followed the playbooks that the doctors and specialists threw at him, and he took our hands in his own, and set out on a journey of history-making treatments, trials, and exploratory programs.
Ocular melanoma is a cancer of the eye diagnosed in approximately 2,000 adults annually in the United States. This equates to approximately 5 cases per 1 million people per year. Among people under 50 years old, the case rate shrinks to 5 in 21,000,000 per year.
Unfortunately, Jackson happened to be one of the 5.
Jackson’s warrior spirit gave him the courage to make others feel at ease under tense circumstances, grim news, and painful procedures. There have been tears, laughter, deep talks, and discoveries we would have never experienced as an intimate family of four had Jackson not been the warrior that he is.
And throughout, Jackson continued to go to college managing to make the Dean’s list every semester while on experimental treatments until his body finally couldn’t take any more. College was incredibly important to Jackson, and even though he was one semester shy of graduating, he received honors and recognition of excellence from the University of Colorado in Boulder.
In his honor, we are creating the Jackson Byck Scholarship to empower other warriors who have been diagnosed with cancer to go to college. We can only hope that one day there will be a cure for OM and perhaps one of the Jackson Byck Scholarship recipients will help develop that cure.