EDMORE — Until November 2011, Jason Wieber’s life was much like that of any Mecosta County Sheriff’s deputy.
He spent his days responding to assaults, traffic accidents, shoplifting reports. He wrote the occasional speeding ticket.
Every so often, something exciting would happen. But for the most part, Jason, a young man of 31, went about his day-to-day life, did his job, and didn’t worry much about the future.
Then came the brain tumor.
Lodged on Jason’s brain stem, doctors told him the only treatment was to undergo radiation. Six weeks of radiation halted the tumor’s growth; brain scans every few months verified it wasn’t starting up again.
Jason returned to work. In 2014, he married his sweetheart, Bethany, a preschool teacher in Vestaburg. A year later, the couple welcomed their son, Charlie. For the Canadian Lakes family, life was good.
It wasn’t until this past January that the real problems began. Jason experienced dizzy spells and problems with his vision. Something was very wrong.
He met with doctors on Feb. 1. Two days later, he underwent a hastily scheduled brain surgery.
The doctors’ worst fears were realized: A new tumor was growing on Jason’s cerebellum. It was aggressive and advancing quickly.
Jason’s sister, Kim Wieber remembers receiving the news.
“It was a very scary and emotional time,” she recalls. “The doctors felt positive about how much of the tumor they were able to remove. Jason spent almost two weeks in ICU (intensive care unit) to reduce the swelling and fluid buildup around the brain.”
The diagnoses was in: Jason had high grade glioblastoma multiforme (GBM),a fiercely aggressive, fast-spreading form of brain cancer.
In late February, accompanied by his family, parents and a cousin, Jason traveled to Texas to consult with a specialist at the renowned MD Anderson Cancer Center. The center is on the cutting edge of cancer research; if a cure was to be found, it would be here.
The family’s hope was that Jason could become part of one of the many clinical trials held there. Unfortunately, because his tumor is located in such an unusual area, he was excluded from most studies. Most GBM tumors are in the cerebrum.
Because of the tumor’s aggressive nature, doctors again recommended immediate radiation treatments. A trip back to Michigan would delay the start of that treatment; with every second counting, Jason instead began the radiation at MD Anderson.
Jason, Bethany and Charlie have been staying in Houston since then. In recent weeks, doctors have held out a ray of hope; a possible clinical trial for which Jason might be eligible. But at present, it’s far from a sure thing.
“There is a trial that is targeting a specific genetic mutation in the cancer cells,” Kim explains. “They are currently looking to see if Jason’s cancer has that mutation.”
If it does, the family will remain in Texas for further treatment once Jason’s course of radiation treatments is complete. If not, they’ll return home where Jason will begin chemotherapy.
Either way, the Wiebers are racking up extensive medical bills along with travel and living expenses. Although Jason does have insurance, the bills are accumulating.
That’s why friends of the Wieber family are hosting a fundraiser from 4 to 8 p.m. Sunday at The Phenix bar and restaurant in Edmore. The event features a spaghetti dinner, raffles and entertainment.
The location is a natural: Jason co-owns the Phenix with his brother, Justin Wieber. The two purchased the bar about three years ago and according to bar manager Rachel Parks they have made many improvements there.
Both owners are well-liked by the Phenix staff, Rachel adds, and are considered as much friends and family as employers.
“They’re just such great owners,” Rachel says. “They came in and have been so generous to us. They kept all the employees and they’re extremely hard workers. They really want the place to be successful.”
Rachel and fellow bar manager, Amy Fuller, planned the benefit together with the rest of the Phenix staff. The two have managed to locate dozens of items for a planned raffle, including a rifle, expensive rifle scope, golf clubs and a golf package.
“There a lot of great stuff,” she says. “We’ll also be doing a silent auction for gift certificates and be holding a bake sale for those who want to donate a little bit.”
Rachel’s only regret is that Jason and his family won’t be able to attend. Kim echoes that sentiment, but notes she’s certain the family appreciates the effort.
”I just wish Jason and Bethany could be home to see everyone there,” Kim says. “But I know they will be very grateful.”
Those wishing to help out but unable to attend the fundraiser may visit a Go Fund Me page set up by Kim at gofundme.com/nutkp3ms.