Utah basketball: Trainer Trevor Jameson attacks the fight of his life
Utah basketball • After cancer diagnosis, he continues to work as he undergoes chemotherapy.
Published: February 28, 2014 04:49PM
Updated: February 28, 2014 11:17PM
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Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune Utah trainer Trevor Jameson treats Princeton Onwas' knee after an informal practice, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014. Jameson is battling a rare form of bone marrow cancer, and in the months ahead will need a bone marrow transplant.

The cancer that changed Trevor Jameson’s life went undetected until the middle of November.

Jameson, Utah’s head athletic trainer, simply thought he’d tweaked his back during a workout once it began bothering him. At 44, he thought he was just getting old and that he could grind through the discomfort. But soon, the pain was debilitating. Daily functions such as getting out of the bed in the morning required help from his children. Soon it became clear that the pain was more than he could bear. He finally went to the hospital and received an MRI and several biopsies.

The awful truth is that Jameson has stage three multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells that attacks the production of the normal blood cells. Upon diagnosis, Jameson found that he had six broken vertebrae in his back.

Despite this, the Salt Lake City native never stopped working. He goes to chemotherapy every Monday. He does his treatment at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, and then he goes about treating Utah’s basketball players.

On Saturday, when the Utes take on Colorado, Jameson will be sitting in his normal place behind the bench. He still experiences pain. His future is still uncertain. But he never once thought about stopping. There’s too much work to do.

“I have a real peace that I’m gonna be ok with things,” Jameson said. “I’ve put it all in God’s hands. If it’s meant for me to get better, I will. If not, I won’t. My back is recovering. I do a lot more, I feel a lot better. Overall, I feel pretty good. I’m extremely blessed to have all the support I’ve had. There’s so much support, there’s no way I’m gonna do badly at this.”

Dealing with cancer

The American Cancer Society estimates 24,050 new cases of multiple myeloma will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year. Much to Jameson’s chagrin, it’s difficult to pinpoint until the advanced stages. Jameson, who specializes in health, has had a checkup once a year, and never had it show up.

“You have to really be looking for it to find it early,” Jameson said.

Once the doctors did figure it out, Jameson’s reaction was actually one of relief.

“At least I knew why my back was hurting.”

His family, friends, and people such as coach Larry Krystkowiak didn’t exactly take the news the same way.

Angie Jameson, Trevor’s wife, initially began preparing for the worst. Now, four months later, the mood is better in the Jameson household and a lot more hopeful. At the time, however, there was more shock and fear than anything.

“I was sad,” Angie Jameson said. “My first reaction was that I needed to make sure the kids were taken care of. In my mind, I thought Trevor was going to die. But I think this has been good for our family. It’s brought us all closer. We rely a lot on our faith, and I think that has helped us out.”

The treatments have had a positive effect. Still, sometimes Jameson is tired. His physical duties, such as carrying heavy bags before and after games, have been modified significantly. Jameson initially stopped traveling, but has been on the last few trips during conference play for the Utes. He’s only missed one home game — Utah’s rousing December win over BYU.

He’s dealing with the pain and the fatigue the best way he knows how, although he feels much better since the diagnosis than before — a sure sign that the chemotherapy is working. And the players that he’s worked with for the last 14 years are still able to be on the receiving end of his expertise.

“He means a lot to us,” Utah forward Jordan Loveridge said. “He’s always there for us, so we want to be there for him. To show him how much we care, we’ve named one of our defenses after him. He’s the best, and we all just kind of want to show him how much we appreciate him.”

Making it

The average survival rate for Jameson’s cancer is 3-4 years with conventional treatment and 5-7 years with advanced treatment.

But none of the stats go through Jameson’s mind. He’s never asked himself if he’s going to live. He’s never asked his doctors about his long-term prognosis. His relationships have a lot to do with his positive outlook. Jameson’s close with all of the players he works with. His relationship with Mac Brennan — the 8-year-old son of senior associate athletics director Kyle Brennan — has become special.

The younger Brennan is fighting leukemia and the two have bonded, spending a lot of time together. It’s relationships like these that have kept Jameson mentally strong.

“I know that I’m going to make it,” Jameson said. “I’ve left it all in God’s hands. He has a plan for all of us. But anything other than being ok has never been in my thought process.”

Jameson walks a little slower than normal. He wears a back brace a lot of the time. Other than that, he doesn’t look any different than usual. That’s due to his current chemotherapy and method of treatment, which is designed to contain the cancer and prevent spreading.

In April, Jameson will receive a stem cell transplant. He will also undergo aggressive treatment designed to kill the cancer entirely. Because of that, he will be forced to take time off, as that form of treatment will take a toll on him physically.

Through it all, Jameson has proved to be one who hasn’t let an illness control his life. He said he’s counting on Utah making a run to the postseason and winning games beyond the Pac-12 tournament.

“He’s a perfect example of what it is to be resilient,” Krystkowiak said. “the stuff he’s going through has got to be very draining. I can’t imagine many people being as tough as Trevor is. We’ve learned a lot about him. He’s a fighter, and it’s awesome to have him as a part of our team.”

tjones@sltrib.com

About Trevor Jameson

• In his 14th season as Utah’s head athletic trainer.

• Did his undergrad work at BYU.

• Native of Salt Lake City.

• Graduate of Taylorsville High.

• Being treated at the Huntsman Cancer Institute.

• Has a wife (Angie) and 5 children.

Colorado at Utah

O Saturday, noon

TV • Pac-12 Network

Radio • 700 AM

Records • Utah 18-9 (7-8); Colorado 20-8 (9-6)

Series history • Colorado leads 25-16

Last meeting • Colorado 79, Utah 75, OT (Feb. 1)

About the Buffaloes • Xavier Talton scored a then-season-high 14 points in the win over Utah. … Josh Scott and Askia Booker combined for 38 points in that win. … Colorado is playing without all-conference guard Spencer Diniwddie, who is injured. … The Buffaloes will play three straight on the road to end the regular season.

About the Utes • Renan Lenz and Xan Ricketts will be honored on senior day. … Utah is looking to improve to 8-8 in the league. … The Utes will finish the regular season with two straight on the road. … Utah split with Colorado last season.