Justin Wegner Jwegs Jdawg
The bracelets are purple. The words "Jeremiah 29:11" and "#JwegStrong" are written on them.
Jeremiah 29:11 is from the Bible: "I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you, not to harm, plans to give you hope and a future.' "
Justin Wegner's goals always pointed toward a bright future.
Wegner, a 2015 Naperville Central graduate and the younger of Ed and Cathy Wegner's two boys, played football and baseball in high school.
Baseball was his first love, which took him to Wisconsin-Whitewater. Wegner appeared in 22 games as a freshman catcher while studying business. He was named to the conference's scholastic honor roll.
His intentions, though, took a detour in June.
A week after returning home, Wegner woke up in the middle of the night with sharp pain in his right lung area. A CT scan revealed nodules in Wegner's lung, and a subsequent positron emission tomography scan revealed spotting in his abdomen.
A biopsy disclosed a desmoplastic small round cell tumor. Fewer than 200 cases have been reported of the rare type of soft tissue sarcoma, a type of cancer.
The main mass is in Wegner's pelvis. It is, though, the type of tumor that travels by the blood stream and potentially causes other masses to form in the liver, lymph nodes and lungs.
The tumors are most often found in males ages 10-30, oftentimes otherwise healthy and active like Wegner. His worst previous health scare was strep throat.
"Haven't had too many health problems," Wegner said. "It's a blessing that the doctor called for a CT scan."
Word of Wegner's diagnosis was felt throughout the Central community.
Wegner was two-time captain of the Redhawks baseball team. A member of the JKB Leadership Foundation at Central, Wegner ran an anti-bullying campaign.
Just this summer, Wegner volunteered at a Central baseball camp.
"Justin's the kind of kid you'd want your son to be," Central baseball coach Mike Stock said. "It rocked everybody and still does."
Wegner, now home, just completed his fifth of 16 cycles of chemotherapy. Every other Friday, he goes to Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago for five nights of treatment.
Wegner dropped about 15 pounds, but has since gained five back.
"It's day to day. When Justin has a good day, we have a good day," Ed Wegner said. "When he has a bad day, we suffer. The positives are he is an athletic kid with a powerful mind. He's going to do whatever he can to beat this."
Wegner's life is changed, but he refuses to change how he lives.
He's been to four Cubs games and one Sox game. He visited Whitewater to watch baseball practice, and frequents Central football practices. He plays whiffle ball.
"I'm not letting this hold me back," Justin said. "It's great to be around friends."
Those friends aren't letting Wegner fight alone.
Mark Nowak started the JWegStrong Facebook page for updates and posts of support, and a JWegStrong fund was created. Bracelets with the #JWegStrong motto were ordered. A "FunwithJustin" fundraiser was held.
Bracelets were sent to Cubs stars Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, who posted pictures on Twitter.
Central's football players are wearing wristbands and stickers on their helmet and T-shirts are being sold for a "purple-out" when Wheaton Warrenville South comes to town Sept. 23.
"I thank God that we have the community that we have," Ed Wegner said. "Justin has touched a lot of people. This is a testament to that."
Wegner will continue chemotherapy for six months. If everything goes well, he will then head to Houston for surgery at the MD Anderson Cancer Center.
He's planning to be back at Whitewater in fall 2017.
"We tell people all the time that this is a curveball being thrown at you, and you'll get through it," Cathy Wegner said. "We have goals, and the biggest goal is that a year from now Justin is back in school."