Newlyweds' brave battle bolstered by community

  • Lauren and Josiah Mihok are in for the battle of a lifetime, just one month into marriage.
    Lauren and Josiah Mihok are in for the battle of a lifetime, just one month into marriage.
Body

Taking on the exciting complications of being a newly married couple, combined with the scary complications of brain surgery, Josiah and Lauren Mihok’s first month as husband and wife has been...complicated.
The couple faced unfortunate news just two months before their wedding day: Josiah had a tumor in his left temporal lobe.
“At first it was the size of a golf ball,” said his brother Micah Mihok.  “And then they looked at it again and it was like 'no, actually it’s the size of a dude’s fist,' which is ridiculous because his brain shouldn’t be working like it does. He should not be able to use like half of his body. But it’s cool because his brain has moved all that data over to the good parts so he’s got fine memory and motor skills and everything.”
The couple was forced to cancel the three-week honeymoon they had planned and Josiah had the surgery to remove the tumor on October 16, just three days after his wedding.
“They took a brief honeymoon and then went right into the surgery and they removed the majority of that tumor,” said Lauren’s best friend, Kelly Wilkerson. “Most of it was benign and then there was a part inside that tumor that they were worried about it being cancerous and some of that is still left in his brain now because it’s intertwined with functioning brain tissue so they couldn’t just take it all out, otherwise he would have some serious deficits.”
On November 12, the results from the testing of the remaining part of the tumor came back, and the newlyweds took another hit.
“So probably the worst news we could have gotten,” Lauren wrote on the blog she created for Josiah’s health updates. “The tumor was categorized as a Grade 4 Glioblastoma.”
For Josiah, this meant his fight was not over. In fact, he’s just beginning.

RESOLVED AND READY

Josiah is scheduled to start radiation treatment in the coming weeks.
“It’s kinda rough to finish your surgery and you think you’re good and everyone is telling you that you’re probably good and then the pathology comes back and says ‘oh actually, we’re going to have to treat you with radiation,’” Micah said.
But while the news was devastating, Josiah, Lauren and the entire Mihok family have remained in high spirits.
“I’m just so impressed by them,” Micah said. “…Every night I pray for him, and I think part of it is maybe God helping him because I don’t think a typical person would react the way he has. He’s got a very almost like Churchillian way of looking at things right now, he’ll take it on and he’s going to fight. It’s been really impressive to see how he’s handled it.”
And that attitude has been infectious, spreading from his family to his friends and from there, has taken to the community, which is where Wilkerson has played a large role.
“He is so encouraging and that’s what’s compelled me to give as much as I can to them and do as much as I can to support them,” Wilkerson said. “…I feel like I owe it to both of them by our relationship and by paying it back.”
So with that mindset and some social media savvy, Wilkerson set out to help the best she could.

FRIENDLY FUNDS

“I run a business on social media,” said Wilkerson. “I actually run two businesses on social media, so I know how some of that works and how the word could spread. So I knew that that was a way to [share their story,]"
Lauren’s blog gave them a head start.
“I created a T-shirt fundraiser and a gofundme fundraiser just to see how much I could get for them and to spread awareness,” said Wilkerson. “But also just to build up their community because they really need it.”
So far the community has come together in an impressive way, raising over $1,000 in the first 24 hours. At press time, the combined efforts from both fundraisers had already brought in nearly $14,000 for the young family.
“It does feel really good that we’ve reached that,” Wilkerson said. “It spread like wildfire on Facebook. I have so many anonymous donations of hundreds of dollars from people who I don’t even think know them so it’s been crazy watching people come together. It’s been really encouraging to get everybody’s support.”
As owner of Paul Thomas Chocolates, Micah is hoping he can turn his customers into supporters for Josiah as well. He also mentioned that other businesses in the community are bringing support in their own ways.
“If you go in and you donate, whatever it is, a dollar, ten dollars, a hundred dollars, come in and show us and we’ll give you a discount and then a percentage of that sale will go back into the fund to help Josiah,” Micah said. “Brazeit, the German restaurant in town, they did a spirit day for him where they gave a percentage of their sales to him for the entire day. Really cool.”

SHOW OF SUPPORT

And while the financial support will definitely help, Micah believes that simply having the emotional backing of the community is already helping keep the family’s spirits up.
“I think part of it is, how encouraging it is to not only see your family coming to you and helping, but to see the entire community helping out and everything, it’s been really crazy,” Micah said.
Lauren agreed.
“I’m just so thankful for the support and love he and I have received,” she said. “It’s kept us going.”
As for Wilkerson, she’s not interested in receiving credit, but rather just doing whatever is best for her friends.
“My goal now is just to fundraise as much as possible to alleviate that debt for them,” she said. "Because Josiah fully believes and Lauren fully believes that he’s going to get through it, and if he does, then medical debt is the last thing that they need to worry about.”
Anyone interested in supporting Josiah and Lauren through donation can do so at gofundme.com/f/support-josiah-mihok or by purchase the fundraising t-shirt and/or donating at customink.com/fundraising/support-josiah-mihok. To follow along with Josiah’s medical journey, visit their blog at laurenspeer13.wixsite.com/website.