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‘He’s too good of a father not to be one in heaven,’ Faith helps family cope with tragedy

CEDAR SPRINGS, Mich. -- Just six months after the loss of a child, a West Michigan mother is now preparing to say goodbye to her husband.

Jake and Kelly Francis began dating in 2004. While they've know each other since high school, it wasn't until their college years that they fell in love.

"It just instantly turned from a friendship to a relationship," Kelly said.

Their relationship, just six months young, was dealt a big scare. Jake was diagnosed with testicular cancer.

"He did amazing," Kelly said. "One round of chemo and kicked its butt."

With Jake beating cancer, the couple got married in 2007. Then, two years later came a big victory.

"When you reach five years of not having cancer, you're considered cured," Kelly said. "So, August of 2009, we were so celebratory that we made it through the five years we never have to worry about this again."

Then, came another unthinkable blow. Jake was diagnosed with a different form of testicular cancer. This time, treatment wouldn't help. They were told the cancer would ultimately take his life.

Still, the couple so badly wanted to be a family. Kelly got pregnant and learned they were having twins: a boy and a girl.

"I was so overwhelmed and blessed of course and feeling so grateful that I had two children," Kelly said. "But, I was scared because I knew someday I'd be raising them on my own."

While coping with Jake's deteriorating health, the couple got another devastating diagnoses. This time, it was for one of their unborn children. At 17 weeks pregnant, Kelly and Jake learned their daughter, Avery, had multicycstic dysplastic kidneys, which prevented her lungs from growing. Avery died shortly after birth.

"We did have 63 minutes with her and I will forever treasure that amount of time," Kelly said.

While grieving the loss of their daughter, they rejoiced in the life of their son, Evan. With Jake's cancer progressing, he was given six months to live in January.

Kelly, a physical therapist, now stays at home to help Jake, who is no longer able to continue his work as a nurse.

The couple's friend McKenzie Pepper is now calling upon the community to help them out.

"Their hearts are just so genuinely good and caring and loving," Pepper said. "They've been a huge inspiration to so many people.  We really are asking the community to reach out and support them financially. It would be amazing to give them the gift of time, together as a family, so that Kelly doesn't have to worry about working.  So, they can spend as much time together with Evan."

Pepper, along with other family and friends, are hosting a fundraiser on Friday. It'll be held at Sunshine Community Church from 5:30 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. They're also raising donations through PayPal. Upon logging in, a gift can be donated to kenziepepp@gmail.com.

While Kelly and Jake have reached their goal of expanding their family, the physical separation once Jake is gone isn't going to stop them from being whole.

"I feel like we were blessed with twins because Jake is too good of a father not to be one in heaven," Kelly said. "He gets Avery in heaven and I get Evan here."

 


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