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Josh Rominger is the son of Mike Rominger and Denna Rominger and younger brother to Jennifer.  He grew up in Advance in Davie County, near Winston-Salem, NC, where he attended high school at Davie County HS.  Josh enjoyed watching and playing sports, especially basketball, hanging out with his friends, cheering on the War Eagles as one of the Davie Crazies, and playing Xbox.  He had an incredibly strong faith, which helped him through his journey, or as many like to call it, Josh’s Journey.

Merhoff_646-1Josh, Fall 2012

Josh  had a cough for approximately 2 months in winter of 2011. During his third visit to the doctor on Friday, Dec. 16, 2011 and after a chest X-ray was taken, Josh went to Brenner Children’s Hospital (part of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center) in Winston-Salem on Monday, Dec. 19th.  At Brenner’s, a CT scan was taken, and it was discovered that he had a large tumor in his chest that was covering his right lung and pushing over on his left lung and heart.

l.EzdpchZsUORXKMacJosh’s initial CT scan (gray is tumor, white is heart)

After the biopsy and several more tests, Josh was diagnosed with cancer.  The specific name is synovial cell sarcoma, a type of soft tissue cancer.  Dr. Wafford, Josh’s oncologist, and Dr. Turner, Josh’s pediatric surgeon, discussed Josh’s case with St. Jude’s Hospital and determined the best option for him was to undergo surgery to remove the tumor.

Josh was admitted to Brenner’s on Tuesday, Dec. 20th where he stayed for two nights.  Luckily, he was able to come home for Christmas; he was released on Thursday, Dec. 22.

On Tuesday, Dec. 27, Josh underwent a 16 hour surgery at Baptist Medical Center.  The surgeons were Drs. Turner, Otaki, Oaks, and Ungerleider.  Josh was put on bypass for part of the surgery, but his heart remained strong throughout.  He was a warrior!  The doctors were able to remove 98% of the tumor; they were unable to remove a section of the tumor behind his heart and possibly on the wall of the chest cavity.  Unfortunately, Josh’s right lung had to be removed.

News of Josh’s surgery spread quickly.  He had so many people praying for and supporting him.  The rock in front of DHS was spray-painted “Pray 4 Josh,” students and players donned light blue, and banners with writings of well wishes were hung in the halls of the school.  He had no idea at this point in his journey how large of an impact his story would have on his community.

407292_2953051948373_110929684_nStudents wearing light blue in support of Josh

Josh was placed in adult ICU at Baptist after his first surgery.  Within the next few days, Josh had another surgery to drain his chest cavity where his right lung was removed.  On Jan. 2, Josh had surgery to amputate his left leg from right above the knee down.  This was necessary and a life saving surgery because during the first surgery when the surgeons were working to remove his tumor, a small piece of tumor got into the blood stream, causing the tissues in his leg to get infected and die.

Josh was moved to the pediatric ICU unit at Brenner’s on Jan. 6, 2012.  After many battles of trying to remove Josh from the breathing machine, it was decided that it would be best to have a trach put in.  On Jan. 10, Josh had his 4th surgery (within 2 weeks), hoping that this surgery would make it easier for Josh to slowly wean off the breathing machine.

On Jan. 19, Josh was moved to the pediatric intermediate ICU unit, and on Jan. 21, he celebrated his seventeenth birthday, surrounded by family and friends.

On Jan. 26, Josh was moved to the Sticht Center to begin rehabilitation; however, that night due to irregular breathing, he was moved back to Brenner’s intermediate care unit, where he continued to gain strength and make improvements (such as downsizing the trach size and removing the feeding tube).  On Feb. 2, Josh was able to move back into the Sticht Center, where he underwent physical and occupational therapy.

On Feb. 10, Josh was able to leave the hospital for a brief outing (his first time in the real world since being admitted late December!).  Josh went to the Davie County basketball game, where he was overwhelmed by the love and support the whole community showed him.  He said, ”Mom you won’t believe this but when I came into the gym the student section stood up and clapped…then everyone else…and then even all the players.”

Josh at Bball GameJosh at Feb. 10 basketball game, Feb. 2012

On Feb. 14, Josh had surgery to place a port in the left side of his chest, which would later be used for chemotherapy.  And finally on Feb. 17, he was released from the hospital and able to go home!!!  Josh was so happy to no longer have to sleep in a hospital bed and of course, to see his black lab Molly.

After deliberation with his oncologist, Dr. Wafford, Josh began chemotherapy on March 13.  Also around this time, it was discovered that Josh’s muscle around the bone where his leg was amputated had atrophied, causing the bone to lay right next to the skin, even coming through the skin in some areas.  It was decided that this would need to be fixed in a surgery to shorten the bone at a later date after his chemo treatments.

imageJosh and Dr. Wafford, Summer 2012

On March 21, Josh had a setback and was admitted to Brenner’s after his temperature spiked to 103.8 degrees  and his white blood count drastically decreased.  He was allowed a day pass on March 24 to go to Wake ‘N Shake, Wake Forest University’s Dance Marathon that raises money for cancer research; Josh was a team captain.  After Josh’s mom, Denna, received this text message from Josh on March 27, “They said Chow might get to go home when Momma Chow gets here,” (in the typical Josh, or Chow, language), he was released from the hospital and able to return home.

DSC01246Josh, Jennifer, Denna, Mike, and Sandra Boswell with Wake ‘N Shake participants, Spring 2012

Josh began his second round of chemotherapy on April 3.  On April 12, Josh again had to be taken to the ER and admitted due to a high fever and low white blood cell count.  Luckily this hospital stay was shorter, and he was released two days later, just in time to go to his Junior prom with Corrie Phelps (Jennifer’s best friend), Nick Boswell (Josh’s best friend), and Jennifer.

537866_3709867027105_1879704468_nJosh, Corrie, Jennifer, and Nick dressed up for prom, Spring 2012

On April 24 (the day Josh was supposed to start his third round of chemo), bad news was delivered to Josh and his mom.  Dr. Wafford told them after examining his latest PET scan, she discovered the cancer cells were not shrinking, and in fact, they were growing; the chemotherapy drugs that they had been using were not working.  Dr. Wafford decided, after discussing with the tumor board, that it would be best to try a new set of chemo drugs, ones that were used when Josh’s cancer type re-occurs, and also to begin radiation therapy.

On April 30, Josh began chemotherapy again, except with the new drugs.  He handled these drugs much better than the previous ones – less nausea and had a better appetite.

Josh was met with more bad news on May 24.  His scans showed that there is a leak where his right lung was removed.  On May 30, Josh had a  surgery to seal the small fistula in his chest and was released from the hospital on June 3, much quicker than anticipated!  Josh was such a warrior.

On June 22, Josh restarted his chemo treatments, and continued to have these treatments until Sept. 14, when Josh and his team of doctors decided that they wanted to stop chemo, to give Josh a break and also because they were still concerned about the fistula in his chest.  During his break from treatments, Josh went back to school (before he was homebound with his favorite teacher Mrs. Foster) and just enjoyed living life.  Josh’s family was also lucky enough to go to the beach for a week, many thanks to Jason’s House.

08-08-12Jennifer, Josh, and their mom, Denna, Summer 2012

Yet another setback came on Dec. 10; Josh was admitted to the hospital with swelling in his face and neck.  The doctors discovered he had a blood clot in the superior vena cava.  On Dec. 12, Josh had surgery to removed the clot, place a stint, and also remove his port from his chest. This hurdle came at a frustrating time, as Josh, Jennifer, and Denna were supposed to fly to Turks & Caicos for Josh’s Make A Wish trip.  Unfortunately, they were not able to go on the trip due to the blood clot.

On Dec. 21, when reviewing the possibility of doing radiation with Dr. Brown, Josh was met with the news that the small piece of tumor that was left during his initial surgery was again growing.  Their plan was to radiate the cancer cells to stop the growth; it was unlikely that the radiation would be able to kill the cells.

Before Josh started treatment, he, along with his friends Nick and Matt and his mom, were treated with a trip to the Outback Bowl to see his football team, the USC Gamecocks play.  This trip was put together by Whit Merrifield, and Josh was so thankful to him for this experience!

919436_550034791716046_1544339680_oNick, Matt, Josh, and Denna at Outback Bowl, Winter 2012

Josh began radiation on Jan. 7, 2013; he completed seven weeks of treatment, ringing the bell on his last day signaling his completion of his radiation therapy!  During this time, Josh celebrated his eighteenth birthday with a surprise party surrounded by all of this family and friends.

IMG_0837Josh at his surprise eighteenth birthday party, Jan. 2013

photoJosh ringing the bell after completing radiation, Spring 2013

On Apr. 1, Josh was admitted to the hospital, as he was experiencing numbness in the left side of his body.  After a chest X-ray, MRI, and echocardiogram, it was discovered on Apr. 2 that Josh’s cancer had metastasized.  He now had six tumors in his brain, the largest of the six being the size of a golf ball.  Josh began radiation on his brain that same day.  Ten days of radiation was planned; however, he was only able to complete eight days.

On Apr. 10, Josh’s mom took him to the emergency room after Josh woke her up in the middle of the night.  Josh had intense pain in his head, kept throwing up, and was not acting like normal Josh.  The doctors discovered the tumors in his brain had begun to bleed and told his mom he would not be able to make it through the day.

Josh finished his fight and went to be with his Lord at 8:45 in the morning on Apr. 10, 2013.  Josh was surrounded by his family when he passed away.  His sister, Jennifer, was not able to make it to the hospital in time, but she joined her family an hour after.

Josh’s viewing was held on Apr. 12 from 5-8 pm at Hillsdale United Methodist Church.  His funeral was held on Apr. 13 at 3 pm at Hillsdale United Methodist Church.  He was laid to rest at Mocks United Methodist Church after the service at a private ceremony.  It was by no coincidence that Josh’s funeral was held on Apr. 13, or 4/13, as Josh’s favorite bible verse was Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  Josh’s family did not realize this until the day of the funeral.

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IMG_1705Balloon release at Josh’s funeral, Spring 2013

Josh’s strength, courage, and most of all, faith, continues to inspire everyone in his community, his friends, and his family.  Our hope is that through Josh’s Jog, Josh will stand as an example of how horrible childhood cancer really is and that his story will never be forgotten.  He should, and will, always be a reminder of how precious life really is – to never take anything for granted, to laugh, to live, and most importantly, to love.

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