Jon Brown remembers how it all started.
“My voice went out in probably mid or late November and, at first, we just thought it was laryngitis,” said the former Fremonter.
Or it maybe it was flu-related.
But seeing no improvement after three weeks, Brown went to a throat specialist who discovered a paralyzed vocal cord. The next day Brown had a CT scan of his chest.
“That’s when they found the mass,” he said.
In December 2018, Brown was diagnosed with Stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Since then, he has been battling the disease — but not alone.
Family, friends and the St. Patrick’s Church and Archbishop Bergan schools community have rallied around one of their own.
The public is invited to a fundraiser called, “Backin’ The Browns.” The event is set for Saturday in St. Patrick’s Auditorium in Fremont.
That day, a $40 Texas Hold’em Fundraiser starts at 1 p.m. Check-in begins at 12:30 p.m. for registration and rules. Snacks and drinks will be provided.
An all-you-can-eat spaghetti feed is planned from 5-7 p.m. The meal also includes salad, bread sticks and dessert.
An NCAA Final Four Watch Party also starts at 5 p.m. The Final Four basketball games will be shown on a big screen and popcorn is provided. A cash bar will be served by the Bergan Booster Club.
A live auction is planned at about 7:15 p.m., in between the NCAA games. Raffle items will be drawn after the live auction.
Event organizers are urging area residents to support Brown as he fights cancer.
The 34-year-old man was born and grew up in Fremont, where he attended Clarmar Elementary School.
He is a 2002 graduate of Archbishop Bergan Catholic High School and a 2007 graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He was a student teacher at Bell Field Elementary School in Fremont.
During the summers, Brown worked for the Fremont Parks and Recreation Department; Structural Wood Components and he was an American Legion Baseball coach.
Brown, who lives with his family in Millard, taught at Bellevue Public Schools for 10 years and for the past two years in the Gretna Public School system.
He and his wife, Nicole, have two daughters, Kendall, 5, and Ellie, 2, and a baby girl due in July.
Family members in Fremont include his parents, Tom and Vicki Brown, and sister Becki.
In a prepared statement, Brown said he has a mass the size of a fist in his chest next to his heart and lungs.
“It has paralyzed one of my vocal cords, making it difficult for me to talk and it sounds like I’ve lost my voice,” he said. “I have other masses on my kidneys and in my stomach that are also lymphoma.”
Brown’s treatment consists of six rounds of chemotherapy. One round consists of a five- to six-day stay in the hospital with a continuous 96-hour chemo drip followed by other infusions.
After that, he has 15 days to recover, making a complete round 21 days long.
“The first week at home is pretty miserable, but then I start to feel a little bit more like myself on the second week of recovery. Then I start all over again,” he said.
When he’s finished with the chemotherapy, he will have more scans to determine the next steps of treatment.
In the meantime, he and his family have been grateful for the support from St. Pat’s and Bergan.
“I’ve been overwhelmed with the amount of support. It has been tremendous and Jon wanted a fundraiser where he could be there to thank people,” Vicki Brown said.
Brown knows many area residents are in need after recent flooding.
“It’s hard to ask for help when all this is going on, because there are a lot of people in need right now,” she said.
She is so appreciative of St. Pat’s and Bergan.
“We always talked about – as parents – taking a village to raise your kids and that village is still there for us. It has not gone away. The people who are helping are parents of his classmates. It’s just very touching,” Vicki Brown said.
Jon also told the Tribune how much it means to have St. Pat’s and Bergan behind him.
“It lets you know that you’re always a part of Bergan and the St. Pat’s family,” he said. “They’ve done so much already and it makes you feel special.”
For more information and to sign up for the Texas Hold’em poker fundraiser, contact Adam Porter at 402-720-6915 or Nathan Schultz at 402-720-8686.