Before JohnSylvester lost his battle to ALS, his young sons used to ask, Why cant the doctors help daddy?
Now, as Sylvesters wife prepares to sit down with her 5- and 6-year-old sons, and tell them she was just diagnosed with cancer, she wants to say to them, I am sick, but the doctors can help.They couldnt help daddy, but they can help me.
Tessie Sylvester, 36, hopes that message gives her sons some comfort.
It was June 16, the day that 44-year-old John Sylvester died, that Tessie found out about her diagnosis.
As I was calling the funeral home to tell them that John had passed, the doctor called me on the other line and said the biopsy had come back and it was cancer, said Tessie Sylvester, of West St. Paul. The cancerhasmetastasized to Sylvesters liver and lymph nodes and, as a result, surgery is not an option.
Since then, Sylvesters sister set up a GoFundMe site, calling it the Sylvester Joy and Sunshine Fund, to raise money because Tessie is self-insured and now a single parent; she wont be able to work during cancer treatment.
Tessie Sylvesters story has been receiving national and international media attention. She said shes been humbled by and grateful for all the people who have been supporting her.
I havent tried to dwell on why is this happening, Tessie Sylvester said Saturday. Ive tried to stay away from that. Ive tried to keep hoping for whatever the best is. Ive been getting flooded with messages from people I know and complete strangers with encouragement and saying, Ive been there before and it will be OK or Praying for you.
John Sylvester was an amazing man and dad, saidTessie Sylvester, whod been married to him since 2004. They met when they were coaching little kids in soccer in Woodbury.
Soccers always been my passion and Johns passion, she said. We both played growing up and through college and John continued to coach.
John Sylvester played for the Minnesota Thunder in the 1990s and was girls coaching director for the Minneapolis United Soccer Club. He continued coaching after he was diagnosed six years ago with ALS, until he felt like he couldnt do it anymore, his wife said.
ALS, also known as Lou Gehrigs disease,is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.
John was great as a dad, Tessie Sylvester said. He wished he could do more with them because, by the time Freddy (age 5) was born, John had lost use of his hands pretty much.
But everything that he could do with the boys, he did. He went everywhere with his family and the boys loved climbing into their fathers chair and snuggling up to watch movies.
Over the winter, John got a tattoo on each of his arms: one said Gus, his sons birthdate and My life and my joy; the other said, Freddy, his sons birthdate and My world and my sunshine.
John loved those two, still does, said Tessie Sylvester. Loved those two more than anything.
At the end of May,TessieSylvester went for a routine physical and said her bloodwork came back a little abnormal, though she was feeling fine.
She was referred to an endocrinologist, who she saw on June 12, which was a Monday.
She reconfirmed the blood test and had me come back the next for an ultrasound, Sylvester said. I came back the next day for a CT and MRI. I came back the next day for a biopsy. It was that Friday when the doctor called to tell her she has adenocarcinoma, a type of cancer that forms in mucus-secreting glands throughout the body.
Doctors are still trying to determine where the cancer originated. She is scheduled to start chemotherapy on Tuesday.
Sylvester worked hard to obtain an academic scholarship to the University of St. Thomas and went on to dental school, her sister said. Shespent years working at a free dental clinic in St. Paul serving homeless and marginalized people, and in recent years has juggled motherhood, caring for John, and working at West St. Paul Family Dentistry, her sister wrote on the fundraising site.
Since JohnSylvester died, the hardest times have been at night, Tessie Sylvester said.
When we lay down and Im holding the boys,then theyll usually start getting really sad about missing daddy, she said.
Sylvester is one of six siblings and five of them live in West St. Paul, as do her parents.
One thing I know for sure is I would not be standing here today if it were not for my family stepping in, she said. She said all the community support has also been carrying us through this, along with her two sons keeping her busy.
They dont really let me slow down, she said with a laugh. I think thats been actually a really good thing, too, because I havent had much time to just stop and think.
Community rallying around 36-year-old diagnosed with cancer on day her husband died – TwinCities.com-Pioneer Press