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Pay It Forward For Jayden

Posted on February 13, 2013, 1:00 AM
Pay It Forward For Jayden

By Tom Lamb

There was a time when if someone asked me to “stand up to cancer,” I would have walked away. I knew cancer was never going to affect me. I thought all the cancer research organizations, the support groups, the marathons, and the fundraisers were just a way for people to collect money.

My past feelings are hard to admit. They plague me with a guilt that continues to this day.

On June 1, 2010, my 6-year-old son Jayden was diagnosed with cancer. Suddenly I was facing this horrendous battle head-on. How could I turn to people for help that, days before, I wouldn’t have given a second thought to?

Jayden fought a gracious battle, one we were sure he would win. Cancer or not, he always lived his life with a smile on his face. I watched him get rounds of chemotherapy while playing video games, laughing and making jokes. Or get a round of chemotherapy, then play a full game of baseball. He made it look so easy. I watched him lose all his hair. I remember kissing the top of his bald head. It just made me love him more.

About two months before Jayden passed, I was at work and feeling sorry for him. I wondered, Will he ever grow up? Will he ever go to prom? Will he fall in love? Is he ever going to get married? I hurried home and woke Jayden up for school. By that point he was on so many medications that his memory was severely weakened. If I asked him anything, I would have to repeat it because he would forget it so quickly. He had been like this for around three months.

Without my asking, he looked me right in the eye and said, “Daddy, just so you know I am never going to get married.” My heart sunk when he told me this. I hadn’t spoken to anyone about what I had been thinking. My mind raced, How would my son with no memory at all know what I had been dwelling on the night before? So with concern, I asked, “Why would you say that to me buddy?”

He looked me right in the eye and said, “God needs me more. I was your angel before I was born.” I didn’t know what to make of this conversation, but I took it with great respect because I had been praying for signs from God of how Jayden’s life was going to go. I decided to get Jayden dressed for school and send him off. Later that day, I got a phone call that Jayden was falling asleep in class and could not stay awake. I raced to his side to pick him up and noticed that he was having small seizures.

That was the last real conversation that I had with Jayden. But I’m grateful for it. It was a final reminder of Jayden’s generous spirit and compassion that everyone who ever interacted with him experienced. 

Throughout Jayden’s journey, I thought people would be like I had been before my son’s diagnosis and look the other way. I never expected that our whole community of Midland, Michigan would stand beside us like it was their fight too. You could probably wrap the line around the block with the people who wanted to support Jayden. They showed up with meals. They offered rides. And they were there in the hospital on November 27, 2012.

That day I held Jayden in my arms, rocking him and listening to “I Can Only Imagine” as the nurse pulled out my son’s breathing tube. I waited for him to take a breath of air, but he never did. I knew that he was leaving. I kissed him on his cheek. He had a calm about him. We played his favorite song, Brad Paisley’s “Water.” I whispered in his ear, “Daddy loves you so much, little buddy. It’s okay to go to Jesus.” I just hugged him and rocked him as he passed away.


Jayden’s story does not end there. Shortly after Jayden’s passing, something strange and special started happening in Midland. A woman went to cancel her layaway for Christmas presents because she didn’t have enough money. When they rang up her layaway to finalize the cancelling, they noticed that she only owed a penny. They showed her a receipt that read “Paying it forward, Jayden style,” from a stranger. Drive-thrus around town were going 15 to 20 minutes without anyone paying for their own meal, with each car paying for the one behind them, Jayden style. Someone even dropped a gold ring in the Salvation Army red bucket that was valued at $2000 with a note that said “Paying it forward, Jayden style.”

The movement didn’t stay inside our town’s borders, spreading across the internet and even on the news. A woman in Mississippi needed a new stove, but didn’t have the money for it. She got a text instructing her to bring two men and a truck down to the store. There, she found a stove with a story about Jayden and a note that said “Paying it forward Jayden style.” We have seen similar stories across the US and even in other countries. Jayden’s Facebook page, Keep On Truckin’ Team Jayden, is filled with them.

Every single story that we hear of people paying it forward, from a big stove down to a drink at a fast-food restaurant, reassures me that that final conversation I had with Jayden was something special. Jayden changed a community. In a small way, he changed a country. And in a large way, he changed me. Never again will I turn my back on someone facing cancer. Jayden can’t stand up to cancer anymore, so in his name, I, Tom Lamb, promise to do it for him.

Tom Lamb is from Midland, Michigan, where he is raising three beautiful children (Faith, 12, soon to be 13; Jilliyn, 11; and one in heaven, Jayden) with their stepmother, Nicole Lamb. They spent the past 2 ½ years fighting cancer by Jayden’s side, and lost him 11/27/2012, just shy of his 9th birthday. They recently started the Jayden Lamb Memorial Foundation. Through their struggles, they know what the loss of the child feels like, and the grief that the parents hold when they lose that child. The foundation will help bring hope to families that lose young children to cancer, with the hope of sending them on a VIP vacation somewhere. You can see Jayden’s journey and stories of Paying it Forward Jayden Style on:

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Posted by Jeremy | February 13, 2013 5:06 AM

Thank You Mr. Lamb and Thank You Jayden !!!

Posted by amy | February 13, 2013 8:00 AM

i know it not right for me to say i know what your going though so i wont because i really dont but i bet it is really hard i followed every day hopeing that he was doing better so i was so sad when he died i didnt feel like moving at all that day. hope u have a good day

Posted by SurvivingMyLife | February 13, 2013 12:15 PM

Thank you for sharing an amazing story. It’s amazing what hope and courage can do for humanity. From a child to multiple communities we feel inspired. “Jayden style.”

Posted by Gary Hackney | February 13, 2013 12:16 PM

I am so sorry I can feel your pain I lost my son in 1989 he was 16 a drunk driver killed him,iThe pain of missing someone does get better in time I wish you nothing but the best..

Posted by sherry | February 13, 2013 12:19 PM

i know the feelings you went through our youngest fought cancer and won the fight.she was 3 1/2 years old she is now 29.i am winning my fight against breast cancer.i loved the story of your son may he always surround you with his love.i believe we all have a guardian angel and i am sure he will be yours.

Posted by Dustin Linhart | February 13, 2013 12:48 PM

I’m sorry you lost your battle lil guy rest easy in saying to St peter just another solider reporting in from hell sir. May the angels smile on you. My grandparents will take care of you they lost the battle too.

Posted by PP | February 13, 2013 12:54 PM

I understand your loss.  Having to lose a child to an illness is truly a heartbroken experience.  My child was just a couple of weeks short of turning four years old.  He had a blood disorder.  They did not call it cancer.  This was back in 1969.  Now I believed they have some control on this particular disease.  To this day I do not know why God took him so early on in his life.  I really need to know why..  I had breast cancer in 2004 and recently in 2011 I have colon cancer.  I am always worrying about my kids and grandkids.  You have a great story about your son and your feelings.  Always hold that dear to your heart…

Posted by Frank Weaver | February 13, 2013 1:01 PM

I lost my 11 year old son to leukemia 1/18/12 and have not recovered yet. Life does go on though. I understand what you went through and this brought tears to my eyes again. Our faith that God has greater plans than we can understand is what keeps me going..and my son Ashton’s little brother. We all should do everything we can to help advances in cancer treatment and support all those who are going through this as well. Life is never the same again.

Posted by Ana Alemany | February 13, 2013 1:33 PM

Thank you for sharing this beautiful story!! It is amazing to see how such young children can so positively change the life of others through their suffering. My heart goes out to your family for the loss of your earthly angel. Now he watches over you from heaven!

Posted by Stacy Knight | February 13, 2013 1:37 PM

Thank you for sharing your story..I’ve lost loved ones due to cancer, but I cant imagine what it’s like to lose a child..His story just renewed my faith in humanity..Beautiful story about a beautiful boy..Rest in Peace Little One..

Posted by Carolee skinner | February 13, 2013 2:00 PM

Breaks my heart and so sorry for ur loss.Five years ago today we lost our Ethan who was 5 to cancer too. I just love ur story. My prayers to you and your family.

Posted by Pat Gooden | February 13, 2013 2:25 PM

I have followed Jaydens stories and have forwarded all of them that you post.  So sorry for you loss,but with all the goodness going around because of Jayden he is still with you.  Bless you.  You have a heart full of memories thanks Jayden for blessing us.

Posted by Raju Shah | February 13, 2013 2:42 PM

Thanks for sharing Jayden’s story. I know how you feel, I have lost a younger brother to his disease and he also fought valiantly against all odds. As a cancer researcher, I can assure you I will work tirelessly to help whomever I can who is fighting this cruel disease. God bless your family.
Dr. Shah

Posted by BJB | February 13, 2013 5:13 PM

I saw this story about your son on the nitely news, my heart goes out to you & your family. My husband is batteling lung cancer, & hearing Jaydens’ story lifts my heart; for someone so small to suffer so much & still be so brave is just amazing. You were truly blessed to be his Dad,& I will now pay it forward in his name.

Posted by Christi Nix | February 13, 2013 5:29 PM

Your story moved me to tears.  I lost my father to lung cancer in 2004.  I had always contributed to the American Cancer Society years before he was diagnosed.  After watching my father battle cancer, I heard a person on the radio asking for donations to St. Jude Children’s Hospital.  I knew I had to set up a monthly contribution to the hospital.  The thought of any child having to suffer from this disease was unthinkable.  I encourage everyone to Stand Up to Cancer by donating to researchers who are working valiantly to find a cure.  My nephew, Ben, is currently in a fight for his life with lung cancer.  May God Bless Ben.

Posted by georgiegirl | February 14, 2013 3:00 AM

Thank you for sharing Jayden’s story with us, he sounds like a special little boy.  Those of us who have been touched by cancer know the devastation it can bring, as well a bond that will never be broken.
I pray the day will come, soon, that no other parent, sister, brother, grandparent or friend has to lose a loved one to that terrible disease we call cancer.  Until that time, I stand up.

Posted by Elizabeth | February 14, 2013 10:10 AM

I love the fact that Team Jayden is spreading so far across the country….he is a wonderfully inspirational little boy….and I try to pay it forward for Jayden when I have the chance.
I hope someday soon nobody will have to loose a loved one to cancer. I have lost too many.

Posted by Patrick Phillips | March 07, 2013 6:32 PM

I was on and I read your story, and was touched by it. I am sixteen years old, and I live in Morristown, TN. I am sorry about your loss. I lost both of my grandmothers to cancer-lung and breast. This had made me want to be an oncologist when I grow up. I just wanted to tell you that Jayden’s story really touched me, and that I am going to try to start a paying forward, the Jayden way, all the way here in Tennessee, around my community and school.
I pray the day will come, soon, that no other parent, sister, brother, grandparent or friend has to lose a loved one to that terrible disease we call cancer.  Until that time, I stand up

Posted by Diane (Lamb) Tilley | May 02, 2013 9:21 PM

Dear Mr. Lamb,
I came across the story of your son, Jayden, and what a brave boy he was.  I don’t have any children suffering from cancer, but I, myself, had cancer and had surgery, chemo, rad….the whole bit back in 2005, and am in remission.  I DID have two children, 16 and 17, who were killed in a car crash and one 49, who was killed in a freak ATV accident. Believe me, I have a fair idea of what you are going through, and I will be praying for you and your family, so that God eases your grief. 

My heart goes out to you and your family as I know you are all suffering so much.  I know God is with you all, and knows your pain.  If it hadn’t been for God, and my faith in Him, I think I would have lost my mind.

Please put your faith in God, and He will help you through this painful time.

Love to you and all your family,

Diane (Lamb) Tilley

Posted by Coley odell | October 27, 2013 8:53 PM

I have recently lost a loved one to cancer but to lose a child has a grief unlike any other. Thank you for sharing your story. I will now hold my children closer and together we will pay it forward Jayden style and will always stand up to cancer

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