CEDAR CITY — When cancer steals dreams for the future, sometimes hope is all that’s left — and sometimes, just one wish can make all the difference in the world.
That’s what the family of 2015 Cedar High School graduate Derek Hoyt is finding out this week as he becomes the first one to benefit from the charity of a newly formed nonprofit organization, Natty’s Wish, created by the family of Natalie Jolley.
Hoyt, an active, young BMXer and computer programmer with cancer, said he was shocked when he learned his senior year he had bone cancer in his hip.
Natalie Jolley, who died of cancer in 2010, learned she had a form of bone cancer in 2007. When cancer had taken control of her body, Scott Jolley, her brother and Natty’s Wish president, said, he knew it wouldn’t be long before she died and he asked her a difficult question:
As hard as the topic of death is, we know it’s coming … and so at that point in time we said, ‘What is it that you want (Natalie), and what do you want your legacy to be?’ and she said, ‘I’d like to provide trips for people who are in my position, for families who are in my position.’
Natalie Jolley was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma in 2007, Scott Jolley said. Ewing’s sarcoma is a type of bone cancer which most often manifests in children and adolescents, he said, but in his sister’s case she was diagnosed at 19-years-old.
After 14 months of treatments, Natalie Jolly’s mother, Marjean Jolley, said they threw a big “end of chemo” party and invited everyone they could think of. When the party was over and they were going through the cards from well-wishers, she said, her daughter suddenly let out a gasp.
“I have booked you and your mom and dad on a cruise to Italy in May,” Natalie Jolley read aloud, her mother said. Marjean Jolley and her husband paid the extra fare to include their youngest son who still lived at home and the four of them embarked on an overseas adventure.
It was a much needed reprieve from all of the treatments, all of the poking and prodding Natalie faced every day, Marjean Jolley said. For a brief moment, she said, they forgot about all of it.
Natalie never did come out of treatment, however. Three weeks after the big celebration they learned the cancer had spread into her skull and it began all over again.
Natalie Jolley died in August 2010.
Paying it forward one family at a time
The family got together and created Natty’s Wish to make sure Natalie Jolley’s dream for her legacy would live on, Scott Jolley said.
They learned the Make A Wish foundation was only available to children under the age of 18, he said, so they chose instead to create trips for adults and their immediate families.
Hoyt and his family are the very first Natty’s Wish recipients.
It took five years of paperwork and fundraising attempts before Scott Jolley’s wife, Kourtney Jolley, decided to take another route.
“We were waiting for some companies to give us a substantial amount of money and it just didn’t happen,” Kourtney Jolley said. “So it just occurred to us to try and do it through GoFundMe (fundraising website) this time.”
Marjean Jolley found Hoyt through contacts she had made at Intermountain Healthcare’s Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City when her daughter was there.
“Because of HIPAA laws (that is, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), of course, then they have to approach Derek’s family first,” Marjean Jolley said. “After they had talked to (Derek’s mom) and she said they’d be interested then the social worker from Primary called me.”
Derek Hoyt’s journey
Sometime in the spring of 2015, Hoyt said, he landed funny while pulling off one of the many recreational stunts he was known for. After the accident, he said, he noticed a nagging pain in his hip that just wouldn’t go away.
Thinking he had knocked something wonky, his mother, Kirsten Catella, said she took him to the chiropractor for an adjustment. Still, Hoyt felt little-to-no relief. In fact, she said, in time the pain worsened until they found themselves repeating visits to the Cedar City Hospital emergency room for pain management.
It wasn’t until the chiropractor did an X-ray to see why conventional treatments hadn’t worked that the family found out this was not a simple bike injury.
“He called Derek and (me) and said ‘I need your mom and you to come meet with me,’” Catella said. “When we got there he showed me the image that there was actually a tumor in his right hip.”
The flood of phone conversations with medical professionals in Salt Lake City began quickly, Catella said, adding that everything happened so fast it was surreal.
Hoyt was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, Catella said, and there was more — it wasn’t just in his hip.
“They did a full body imaging of Derek,” she said. “They found the cancer tumors in his lungs.”
The lung tumors were still microscopic, Catella said, so the doctor recommended focusing on the hip tumor for the time being and tackling the lung tumors toward the end of treatment.
“I kept waiting for somebody to tell me that this was a big joke,” she said, “that this wasn’t really happening, but the imaging just wasn’t showing that.”
The whole family has been reeling, Catella said. Hoyt has four siblings who have all taken the news pretty hard, especially their youngest child who has a high-functioning form of autism.
“He’s kind of shut away and he won’t talk about Derek or have much to do with him anymore,” she said. “(He) would go climb into (Derek’s) bed with him at night and now he has a hard time even mentioning Derek’s name.”
Derek’s health has declined as the effects from treatments aimed at healing him have made him sicker.
Today, Hoyt gets around in a wheelchair or uses a walker for short distances. He uses an oxygen tank to help him breathe and gets winded and tired from simple activities.
Hoyt’s friends say it’s shocking to see someone they know as athletic and healthy so pale and frail-looking.
“When I heard that he had gotten cancer I was just kind of in shock,” high school friend Abraham Utabe said, “because he was always such a healthy kid, never doing drugs or nothing bad like that, always fit as well.”
A self-described introvert, Hoyt said all of the extra attention has been a blessing and a curse.
On one hand, he said, he is tremendously grateful for all of the support. On the other hand, the unsolicited attention from well-wishers can become overwhelming and stressful at times.
“I just am sick of people (sometimes),” Hoyt said. “I just want to tell them to leave, because I am definitely an introvert and so I have to have the time to myself.”
Hoyt has chosen to go to Universal Studios for a VIP tour, he said, pointing out it was his mom’s idea since he was into computer programming and loves movies.
The part of the trip he is looking forward to the most will occur after their visit to Universal Studios, Hoyt said, when the whole family is going to go play “Exit Game” together.
“You’re locked in a room but it has a theme,” Hoyt said, explaining that the people trapped in the room have to solve clues to escape.
This trip couldn’t have come at a better time, Catella said, sharing that the whole family is worn out and it will be nice to spend family time together laughing and enjoying each other.
The Hoyt family left for Los Angeles Jan. 2 and are due to return Friday, Marjean Jolley said, adding she was honored to be able to carry on her daughter’s legacy for the first time through them.
To follow Derek Hoyt’s journey — and see photos from his trip to Los Angeles — like his Facebook page, “Support Derek’s Fight With Cancer.”
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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.