Jaden Bybee, known by his teammates for being a great defender on the BYU-Hawaii men’s soccer squad, was diagnosed with melanoma cancer as he was preparing to serve his mission in 2013.
“My original reaction after being diagnosed and having my mission postponed was I was mad at God. [I was] angry and confused. I started asking questions like, ‘Why me?’” Bybee, a sophomore from Utah majoring in exercise and sport science, said, “In the end, it humbled me and I’m grateful everyday to have health and be able to play the sport I love.”
Bybee continued, “I feel the lessons I learned transfer well to soccer. I’m grateful I’ve even had the opportunity to play at the level I’m playing at today.”
While Bybee does not shy away from sharing his experience, he does not try and draw the attention to himself. Many of his teammates said they were impressed by his spiritual maturity and the obstacles he had to overcome medically. Several also noted how they see him as a leader both on and off the field.
Brando Barron, a junior from California majoring in exercise science, said, “It was cool to know what he had to do to work his way back to be able to play soccer, [then] still be one of the best players on the team. It’s one of those neat inspirational stories.”
Another way Bybee has influenced his teammates is through sharing his testimony. He talks of his experience and how it has strengthened him, as well as the blessings of serving a mission even after the cancer diagnosis.
For Griffin Garcia, a freshman forward from Utah majoring in business management who is leaving on his mission this year, it was particularly meaningful. Garcia explained, “Jaden’s testimony helped me a lot because I’m leaving for my mission to Peru this year. It was really good for me to hear what Jaden had to say.”
After a successful high school and club soccer career, Bybee decided to go on his mission rather than going to school and playing soccer for a year. “I decided to leave once the age requirements for missionaries changed,” he said.
Bybee received his call to serve in Novosibirsk, Russia and began preparing for his departure date soon after he graduated high school.
“I already had my mission call and was just going into a dermatologist to get a prescription refill about a month before I left,” Bybee said. “That’s when I got diagnosed with cancer.”
A week before when Bybee had gone to place the refill order, one of the doctor’s assistants noticed a small mole on his neck and wanted to take a small sample just to be safe. With Bybee’s departure date for Russia approaching, she wanted to make sure they checked for cancer. The assistant said the results would be in by the time he returned in a week to pick up his prescription.
After the sample had been taken, Bybee left for Hawaii to play in a soccer tournament. He recalled, “I got back, and when I went to the dermatologist, I had completely forgotten they had even taken the mole off. I was in there by myself and they called me to the back.”
Bybee explained, “They pulled me into a room and there were a bunch of doctors and nurses in there. They said they had some good news and some bad news.”
They said the bad news was the sample came back positive for melanoma cancer. They said the good news was the cancer was still in stage one, meaning it could be controlled and removed through some fairly simple medical procedures.
The doctors sent him down to the Huntsman Cancer Center in Salt Lake City for further testing. Once again, he said he was reassured he would be fine, and it was just to make sure he was safe to serve a mission.
Bybee’s doctor proposed they remove a lymph node from his neck. Bybee said, “The doctor assured me there was a 1-to-5 percent chance there was any cancer in the lymph node. He said I didn’t have to worry.” When the results came back from testing the lymph node, cancer had been discovered, instantly making the situation much more serious.
Bybee required a major surgery where the doctors removed all the lymph nodes on the right side of his neck. This lead to his mission being postponed for a year. During this time, he recovered from the surgery and also began participating in clinical trials for a new drug.
“It’s part of the reason I went to Oakland for my mission, because I could still participate in the clinical trial, which had a center in San Francisco,” Bybee said.
Bybee fully recovered from the surgery during his year-long delay, and left to the California Oakland-San Francisco Mission where he served the full two years.