OREM Jordan Colton opened his final church talk before leaving on his two-year Latter-day Saint mission with a lie.
"Those of you who know me know how little experience I have had with adversity," he said. "OK, that's a lie."
Some people have even told him that he has dealt with more adversity than most in his 21 years of life.
But he said he would not be able to tell the difference.
"I just take things as they come and try my best to turn to the Lord for his guidance, love and support," he told his Aspen 5th Ward of the Aspen Orem Stake days before he left to train for missionary service in the North Carolina Charlotte Mission.
Colton's positive attitude has beamed brightly through his "smiling eyes" since he was 4 years old, said his mother, Cathy Colton. It was at this time that Jordan Colton's battle with adversity began.
One day, while his mother was giving him a bath, she found a lump on the left side of his neck, Jordan explained in his talk.
"Being a concerned mother, she went to my pediatrician, and he said it was probably an infection and gave my mom some antibiotics that would solve the problem," Jordan said.
But the lump only got bigger.
Cathy Colton, described as a "spiritual giant" by her son, knelt and asked the Lord what she should do to help her little boy. She said the inspiration came to take him to Primary Children's Hospital. But she did not know what department to take him to when she got there, so she prayed again. Once more, an answer came: oncology.
"No!" she thought at the time. "That means cancer!"
Jordan said that after a day of testing at Primary Children's, he was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, an aggressive and highly malignant cancer of the soft tissue. His parents were told that he would have a 35 percent long-term chance of making it to his 10th birthday because of the size and location of the tumor, Jordan said.
Jordan underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments for a year. Doctors told his parents in the beginning that there would be long-term side effects from the treatments, including scarring, growth issues and complications with his teeth because of the location of the cancer.
"My parents put their faith and trust in the Lord and went through with the treatments," Jordan said. "Hence why I am still here today."
Although Jordan has been cancer-free for 16 years, he said the side effects from the treatments have "come into fruition."
The first was a hole in his left eardrum.
"I had a tube placed in my left ear right before the cancer was diagnosed," he said. "When the left side of my head received radiation, that little tube would heat up and it eventually seared a hole in my eardrum." That hole has been patched twice since. Jordan said it's a blessing that he still has his hearing in that ear.
Cathy explained that Jordan's throat was so damaged by the treatment that he had to have a feeding tube inserted so he could eat.
The major side effect Jordan said he has been dealing with has been his teeth.
Because he was only 4 years old when treatment began, the majority of his permanent teeth were still little buds in his jaw, he said. To keep his face symmetrical, both sides of his face were radiated. The radiation killed the cancer cells but also killed the tooth buds.
"The radiation and chemotherapy basically destroyed the roots of those teeth, and I was bound to lose them a lot sooner than the average person," Jordan said. All of his baby teeth developed radiation cavities and had to be capped.
"We hoped those little teeth would hold up," he said.
The Coltons searched for specialists to help Jordan's case and were told he would have to finish growing before they could create a permanent solution. So they put a brace behind his top teeth so they could support one another. This brace was supposed to last until he turned 16 or 17.
To help with his growth, Jordan started growth hormone treatments, and after about two years, he said he grew 2 1/2 inches, putting him just over 5 feet, which is his current height.
When he, his doctors and parents felt he was finished growing, they focused on his teeth. It was about this time when Jordan was a teenager that his father, who was working as a business analyst, lost his job.
"In some ways, (losing the job) was harder than Jordan's cancer," Cathy said.
"We were put into a different situation without insurance, and we had to find someone who had experience with cases such as mine," Jordan said.
This time in his life was particularly hard, he said.
"Throughout high school, it was a struggle," Jordan said. "I tried to hide how much of a struggle it was for me. Every time we thought we had found a solution, it ended up not working. In blessings from my dad, I was told that I would serve a mission and that eventually it would work out, but honestly, I did not feel like it was going to happen."
When he graduated from Timpanogos High School in 2005, Jordan still had his original teeth, which had lasted a year longer than doctors said they would.
By this time, the Coltons had finally found a doctor in Salt Lake City who had worked with radiation treatment patients and was willing to place implants in Jordan's mouth. The implants would act as roots for the crowns that would be his teeth, he said. The only problem the Coltons had was figuring out how to pay for the surgery.
At the time, Jordan home-taught a woman in his ward who was always interested in the progress with his teeth and whether he was able to go on a mission yet.
"Each time (I home-taught) I had to tell her that progress was slow and I was still trying to take it a day at a time," Jordan said. "We were still struggling to make ends meet. (This sister) was a woman of great connections and she pulled some strings to have my implants paid for."
Cathy said the woman did not want her name or connections printed in the newspaper.
"Sadly, (she) died and she never got to see the final results," Jordan said. "But after she had passed away and was buried in the Orem Cemetery, I went to her gravesite and thanked her for what she had done for me. And I asked that if she had any more influence, maybe she could help us with the final procedure (placing crowns over the implants) so that I could serve a mission."
Jordan said he got his final request from her.
The Coltons found a dentist who, "out of the kindness of his heart" pulled some strings to lower the cost of the crowns, Jordan said. But the Coltons still needed money.
"(This sister) must have had some influence even on the other side because in a very small amount of time, while I was at work, my dad came over and placed an envelope on my desk. I opened it up and it was a check from the same people who had helped with the implants, who had now given us the money that would pay for most of the crowns. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I hugged (my dad) and then called my mom to tell her the good news. It was enough to get the procedure rolling."
Jordan said an "anonymous angel" took care of the final bit of cost for the procedure, and he thanked whoever that might be during his talk.
"If you are in this room right now, I do hope that you know how much I appreciate that sacrifice in my behalf," he said. "I want you to know that I will always be grateful and will never forget that selfless sacrifice you made for me. It has made me want to become a better man and will make me a better missionary."
The procedure was completed in November. Jordan received his mission call in January, and left the Provo Missionary Training Center for North Carolina on May 14.
"At times it has felt like an eternity going through this whole experience. I really had doubts about my chances of going on a mission," Jordan said. He said he set his goal of fulfilling a mission when he was a Primary child.
He said his adversity as well as anyone's adversity can be made bearable with the Lord's help.
"(Adversity) is going to be really hard at times, so much that you think you just can't handle it anymore, at least it was in my experience," he said. "But just remember that the Lord will not give you more than you can handle. That is such a great comfort. It really did help me through these past three years before I was finally able to get my (mission) call and accomplish this goal."
Cathy said she knows the Savior's love for Jordan, and knows that Jordan also understands it. This knowledge of the Savior's love has helped the Colton family through hard times.
Cathy related an experience she and Jordan had when he was very young and trying to understand his sickness. She said she was praying one night for Jordan to feel comforted. Soon after her prayer, Jordan came to her and told her he had a dream about the Savior. He said that in his dream, the Savior came to him, held Jordan in his lap and told him that he would be OK. Cathy said Jordan was able to reflect on this dream whenever he was having a hard time.
"The Lord's hand was in all of it," she said.
Jordan ended his talk by also acknowledging the Lord's hand as well as others who helped him along the way.
"Throughout this whole experience, I know I could not have done it without the love and support from my close friends, my family and especially the Lord," Jordan said. "It was a very humbling time, and I truly learned patience and how we can gain experience through adversity. I am reminded of what the Lord told the Prophet Joseph (Smith) while he was in prison."He then read from the Doctrine and Covenants 121:7: "My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment."