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Farewell to Jim

Jim in early 2007
Steve Jahnke/ The Southern Illlinoisian
Used by permission. All rights reserved

Jim Jung, the author of this site, died on March 15, 2007, after a brief but valiant batle with lung cancer.

His family has sponsered a guest book begun by the Southern Illinoisian. Please visit it to share a memory of Jim or to read what others have posted.

This is still very close (May 2) and it's very hard for me to write about him. But I know I haven't spoken to everyone who cared about him, and I want to cover the most common ground here on the website.

Looking back on it, he wasn't quite himself for most of 2006. But Jim wasn't the sort to run to the doctor, and he was undertaking a lot of unaccustomed physical labor that year. There was serious repair on our rental property, involving among other things removing dirt from the basement by the 5 gallon bucketfull and rebuilding a basement wall under an existing house. We just thought he wasn't 20 any more. As a matter of fact, the most obvious sign we had that he was ill was in December. He took two twentysomethings on a tour of Fountain Bluff, and they had to stop and let him catch his breath. If he couldn't have made it up our front steps without getting short of breath, we would have been concerned. But that was a hike I would had to catch my breath on at 20, and we laughed it off.

Another part of the work he was doing, in addition to producing the Almanac and completing Weird Egypt, was helping me get my father's house ready for us to move back to. There was still lots to do, but we were well enough established by Christmas to have his whole family over for lunch and dinner. I will always be grateful we didn't put it off. We had a wonderful time with wonderful people.

The next day we both came down with the flu. I was over it in two days but Jim kept running a low fever and didn't get his energy back. Finally Jim broke down and went in for a check up. Our doctor ran a battery of tests, including a sputum test that showed no malignancy. She perscribed him an antibiotic for the fever, and, since his Epstein Barr virus numbers were through the roof, we thought that was the problem.

However, when the antibiotic didn't have any effect at all within a week, we called back and were referred to an infectious disease specialist. Convinced that it was some form of cancer, she wanted him to check himself into the hospital and get a battery of tests. We thought that was extreme, but Jim did agree to a chest x-ray which revealed a mass in one of his lungs, and we became more cooperative after that.

To cut a long story short, he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. There was a cat scan and surgery to introduce a port-a-cath. We'd had an itinial appointment with a radiological oncologist who was going to perform radiation therapy to reduce the tumor in Jim's throat which was making it hard for him to breathe or swallow. He had his first course of chemotherapy, after which he felt "weak as a kitten."

His mother came down that Saturday to be with us and help us out. Shortly after she left for church the next day, I went in to check on Jim and found him unresponsive. He was admitted to the hospital after they determined that he'd had a mild heart attack and that there were blood clots in his lungs. He was alert enough that his oncologisc could explain his condition to him and he consented to be placed on a ventilator with the understanding that he wanted to fight as long as it looked like he could at least get out in a wheelchair, but he didn't want to be bedridden.

Up until the night before he died, his doctors thought they'd at least get him stable enough to come home one last time. But the hospital called me at 7:30 Thursday morning because his body was giving every sign of shutting down. Vernice and I were able to touch base one last time before his doctor came in to talk with us, and thank God she agreed with me in our understanding Jim's wishes. His doctor confirmed that we'd entered the realm of heroic measures, something Jim had always asked to be spared. We asked for him to be taken off the ventilator and he died peacefuly shortly afterward, literally surrounded by family and loving friends.

That's all I can write right now. I'll come back and revise this page, I'm sure. But I want everyone who loved him to know that, if he had to die, he was lucky enough to have an easy death. It wasn't any fun, of course. He was too tired to leave the house for a few months. But he was always in less pain than his doctors expected, so much so that although he had a perscription for vicoden and another for percoset, he almost always just asked for Tylenol, and he was only helpless for those few days that he was on the ventilator under sedation.

More than that, his friends and family rallied around him, calling, visiting, and staying with him in Intensive Care around the clock. He had that last precious evidence of how much he was loved. I thank them for that, I thank them for the love they've shown me during his illness and since his death, and I thank his friends and our family for the sharing that's gone on since his death. Jim was a wonderful, wonderful man, and we all only had a small part of him.

The last thing I want to say today is that there was a tribute and benefit for Jim on April 28 at at BBQns (Club 51)in Carbondale, IL. Thanks to Hedman Orchard and Vineyard for providing a night at their Bed and Breakfast. for the raffle, to all those who made the event possible, and to all those who came to share their memories of a departed friend and to help me meet his final expenses.

A bank account has been set up for contributions. If you are moved to make a contribution to help meet the Jungs' insurance deductible, you may do so online by using the button below, or contact me directly.

If you would like to make a donation in Jim's honor, please consider Green Earth, Inc. of Carbondale, The Nature Conservancy, or a charity of your choice.

Copyright © 2007 Jim Jung