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Nicholas E. Colleluori Award honoree: Utah husband, father remains optimistic despite battle with blood cancer

Wednesday, 18th March 2015

Categories Boy's/Men's, HEADstrong  

By Chris Goldberg, Posted 3/18/15

Amanda Jensen said her husband, 30-year-old Marshall Jensen, has the gift of being a “ballistic optimistic.”

Jensen shows it every day, even when his prognosis is as challenging as anyone would dare to face.

Marshall, Amanda Jensen

Nicholas E. Colleluori Award winner: Marshall Jensen with wife Amanda

Friday night at the Hilton Philadelphia at Penn’s Landing, Jensen was honored with the Nicholas E. Colleluori Award, presented annually to a cancer survivor demonstrating heroics and perseverance in the fight against blood cancer, during the 5th annual HEADstrong Gala.

Jensen, 30, gave an inspirational and heartwarming speech about his battle against blood cancer. While sharing his story of strength and hope no one would have known that just 10 days earlier he had learned that he had suffered a third relapse of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, since being diagnosed just over 3 years ago.

So Jensen, who originally planned to fly into Philly from his home near Salt Lake City, Utah, as a patient in remission was forced to give an acceptance speech with a smile on his face just days after having a port placed in his chest, and enduring a bone marrow biopsy the morning of the event.

But his speech to the hundreds that attended spoke only of positives, and thanks to the man who created the HEADstrong Foundation, Nick Colleluori.

“I couldn’t say that I knew Nick, but now I do know Nick,” said Jensen, who has gotten to know the Collelluori family well through his time spent at Nick’s House. “I know his passion from his family by the way his family showed their love for me.

“I know Nick’s light because it reflects off of all of you and gives me hope. When faced with the reality of cancer, the best thing for your soul is hope.”

Jensen was diagnosed on Jan. 4, 2012, just a few months after the birth of his first child, son Kezman, and he received his first Stem Cell Transplant on June 1. He suffered a relapse in February of 2013 and after a second Stem Cell Transplant that July, he dealt with a second relapse in April 2014.

Cancer was found in his brain and face in August of 2014 and it was bad enough to paralyze his face and prevent him from speaking. But Jensen remained optimistic and underwent his first T-Cell treatment in September. In this procedure his cells were removed and then “re-engineered” and inserted back in.

Now, after this latest relapse, he must endure the treatment again.

You would think that if anyone felt he was cheated in life right now, it would be Marshall Jensen. But he will not give up.

“I have seen so many miracles and I feel that I need to share that,” he said.

Fortunately, Jensen and his wife and three year old son Kezman, have been able to stay at Nick’s House, home of the HEADstrong Foundation and where cancer patients and their families can stay for free while receiving treatments at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital.

Doctors have told him he faces an uphill battle, but he only listens to his heart. Jensen said he has too much to live for; pointing to his wife and their love for Kezman.

Amanda loves the term “ballistic optimistic” – but Marshall Jensen says it’s just the way he’s always lived.

“You could ask my wife, but I think it’s kind of in my genes,” said Jensen of his up-beat personality. “It’s not like when I got cancer I decided to change my life and that now I will be positive. I feel like I have always gone through life trying to see the best in everything and everyone.

“When we first flew out here (to Philly) we met an MS patient, now my buddy, who was a track runner and now can’t even walk. He said to me, ‘Marshall, do you know something? If I could go back and be cured of my MS (then) or have the choice of having it cured now, I wouldn’t go back, because I have learned so much and become such a better person because of what I have had to go through.’

“I teared up a little bit and said, ‘You know what, I have to think about that question.’ I said, ‘I hope I can feel that way about my cancer.’ A few weeks later I called him up and said I wouldn’t go back.”

Jensen thanked the HEADstrong Foundation for its generosity, support and relentless desire to help cancer patients.

“He’ll (Nick) continue to make a difference to other families,” said Jensen. “That was his mission and such a mission is beyond commendable. I have been inspired.”

No, you, Marshall Jensen, have inspired us.


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