CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Brothers. One a high school senior, one a senior in college. Both diagnosed with the same cancer six weeks apart.
21-year-old Preston Jackson and 18-year-old Parker Jackson live in Forest City, in Rutherford County. Preston is currently a senior at UNC Charlotte. Parker is a senior at Chase High School and hopes to start at Wingate University in the fall.
"They are trying to live life as normal," mom Sharon Sechriest said. "So for now, they're still in school."
Both boys started experiencing symptoms in 2015. Things like hypercalcium - which caused kidney stones - stomach ulcers and bleeding in the urinary tract. Their father had been diagnosed with cancer in 2014 so Preston and Parker took the symptoms seriously and went through substantial testing. Each boy even had surgery in 2015 after tumors showed up in glands in their necks.
Then late last year, Parker had a persistent cough. Doctors finally sent him to the hospital for an endoscopy. Three days later he received the devastating news that he tested positive for pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer.
His older brother Preston was diagnosed with THE SAME THING six weeks later.
It wasn't mere coincidence. The boys discovered they both have a mutation in their DNA that causes chaos in their endocrine systems.
And, remember how I said their dad had cancer? He has the same type as his sons. The mutation in the boys' DNA is a genetic disorder that got passed down from their father.
Their dad's cancer has spread, but he is still fighting. He and Sharon divorced years ago, but both have remarried and Sharon says everyone has been involved in raising the boys.
"This genetic illness hits one in 30,000 people," Sharon said. "It's a difficult and rare situation."
"My sons are the best thing that has ever happened to me. We won't give up."
Like many parents who reach out, Sharon said cancer does not define her kids. She said both Preston and Parker are active and LOVE sports. Preston's hero is Steph Curry. Parker loves Tim Tebow.
As for the next step, both boys will go through extensive testing every three-to-six months at MD Anderson Cancer Center where a team of oncologists, surgeons, radiologists, gastroenterologists, neurologists, etc. (in other words, LOTS of people) will monitor their ugly disease. Sharon also says at some point they'll both need what she calls "very serious surgery."
"We are trying to wait until it's absolutely necessary to do the surgery," Sharon said. "At this point we're focusing more on making sure their cancers don't metastasize or get bigger. We think the surgery is inevitable, but it has caused long-term issues in others so we are trying to hold off."
Everything just mentioned costs money: Appointments. Doctors. Surgeries. Then add in flights. Hotel stays. Meals out-of-town. Co-pays. Days off work.
"We're trying to plan a fundraiser in June," Sharon said. "But it's a lot to plan and honestly, right now we're just focused on treating Preston and Parker and moving through."
Thank you, Sharon, for sharing with such open-ness. Please keep us updated.