Teen loses fight with cancer

Jared Davis impressed many people with his overwhelmingly positive attitude, wide grin and extreme dedication to reaching his goals of learning about aviation, sciences, the military and religion.

Sunday, Jan. 11, Jared died after fighting synovial cell sarcoma, a rare, little-known cancer. He was 17. Services will be held Friday, Jan. 16, at Oak Harbor High School.

Jared was well known in the community. As a member of Oak Harbor High School’s cross-country team, he last competed Oct. 8, 2003, and earned a varsity letter for running. His teammates voted him the Most Inspirational athlete for 2003. He was a highly involved member of Navy Junior ROTC. This past summer he received a prestigious award from Skagit Civil Air Patrol and many across Western Washington knew him as a leader, a lieutenant, in the organization’s cadet corps.

There are no known survivors of this particular type of cancer after it spreads to the lungs, as it had in Jared’s case. Although his prognosis was grim, the Oak Harbor teen and his family never gave up, always hoping a chemotherapy regimen would be found to halt the tumors growing in his lungs.

In an interview in November 2003, Jared said “Life is still good.” He never wavered in that belief his mother, Sheri, said.

Although doctors had told his family that death was a very real possibility — Jared was diagnosed with end-stage cancer — his family wasn’t yet prepared.

“Jared never gave up,” Sheri said. “We had discussed plans, but nothing further than medical decisions because he wasn’t done fighting.”

Cancer did not stop life

Jared’s dedication to school, sports and Civil Air Patrol and his positive outlook, along with his resistance to medication side effects, allowed him to attend many meetings and functions while on treatment.

This commitment and continued fight affected his coaches and classmates. In November 2003, six member of the cross-country team ran 30 miles, from the high school to Krispy Kreme doughnuts in Burlington, to raise money for the American Cancer Society in honor of Jared.

Chris Wichers said Jared inspired people to work as hard as they could. “Jared wanted to give all he had and felt everyone should give all they can,” Wichers said Monday.

Teammate Richard Carter said he and others at the high school were sad and depressed. “But we’re also trying to celebrate Jared’s amazing attitude and life,” Carter said.

“Jared was everything you could want in a young adult,” Todd Wigal of Skagit Civil Air Patrol said. “Jared’s irreplaceable,” he said. “It would be impossible to find someone else his age of his caliber.”

Wigal said Jared’s ever-present smile was remarkable. At encampment in August, Wigal said Jared worked 16- to 18-hour days and was always smiling even after he returned from an appointment where he learned chemotherapy was not slowing the tumors’ spread.

“He heard not much hope was left and still Jared kept going and smiling,” Wigal said.

Cross-country coach Seth Hodges said Jared had tough days trying to run but never said a bad word or let frustration take over. At the end-of-season banquet Hodges told the runners and their families that everything a person does is a celebration of life, of time on the planet.

“Jared may have taught these athletes more about this celebration of life than anyone else they ever met,” Hodges wrote in an e-mail. “Each of them will take a bit of Jared’s positive outlook with them … and the world will be better for his presence. I know I am a better coach and person for having known him.”

Mike Black, senior naval science instructor at Oak Harbor High School, said Jared was “a remarkable young man who handled a horrible situation with grace and courage.”

Jeff and Sheri Davis agree that Jared was a special person, but said he wasn’t perfect.

“He had his faults,” Jeff said.

“Jared had incredible memory, almost photographic for what interested him, but he still couldn’t remember how to run a washing machine,” Sheri said. “He loved to sleep and drive me crazy putting off school projects until the last minute. He said he worked better under deadline.”

Black said Jared could be intolerant of people who weren’t as committed to a project as Jared himself was. “But we worked on that and he became an even better leader.”

Jared chose treatment

In the last six weeks, Jared had been through two critical calls with collapsed lungs and bleeding in the lungs but had bounced back. In fact, Jared had attended ROTC classes last Thursday and Friday.

His parents believe the “tumor load” got too heavy for his lungs to process oxygen and Jared “slipped away,” Sheri said.

Although treatment had been long and hard with surgery, radiation and rounds of chemotherapy using 13 different drugs, Sheri and Jeff Davis said they would never have changed anything.

“We told Jared he could stop (treatment) at any time and we would support him completely,” Sheri said.

However, Jared believed no matter what happened, he was still providing doctors and researchers with data that could help other people.

Family draws on faith

Jeff and Sheri don’t know how their family, daughter Breanna and son Trevor, will continue after losing Jared. But they know it will be hard.

“I don’t remember life before cancer,” Sheri said.

The family’s rock-solid faith has carried them and Jared through years of cancer and will see them through the tough times.

Yet knowing Jared had set many goals but would not get met will be one of the hardest things for them. Since he was 5, Jared had wanted to attend the U.S. Air Force Academy and fly military planes.

Jared recently decided if he couldn’t meet that goal, he would become an aviator providing transport of people and supplies to missionaries stationed around the world.

“Jared knew God had a plan for him,” Sheri said. “God gave him to us for a purpose.”

Sheri said heaven is beyond anyone’s imagination, but she’s sure Jared’s meeting all his goals there.

“If he still desires to, Jared’s flying, designing and building aircraft in heaven,” she said. “He’s still learning and will love that.”

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