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McCrory making strides as cancer shrinks

Jack McCrory poses with his dog Bandit. Photo by Hailey Juergenson

Jack McCrory. Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

It is a name that everyone at Bear River High School is familiar with, even the freshmen, though they probably correlate it simply with a name on the gymnasium. Jack McCrory is a fundamental pillar of the Bear River community. He dedicated many years at Bear River as the Athletic Director from 1986-2007 and has continued to substitute teach after his retirement, simply because he enjoys being a part of our school.

Mr. McCrory was diagnosed in the beginning of May with stage four colon cancer.

“I wasn’t (comfortable talking about the situation) when it first happened ‘cuz the doctor goes ‘you have stage four…colon cancer, you have 80% blockage, and if it’s untreated you probably have 10 months,’” Mr. McCrory said.

So he began chemotherapy, which he found dreadful.

“I went on chemo, which is just a terrible thing,” Mr. McCrory said. “I sit in a chair for four hours and they load me up with stuff, and then they gave me a little pump to take home for another 48 hours. And, all the sudden, food tastes terrible … and I dropped 35 pounds in a month, and it’s just a bizarre, terrible thing.”

Jack McCrory is resoundingly beloved by every student and staff member that he has worked with.

“I would best describe Jack McCrory as the grandfather of Bear River” said senior Kaylee Bohrer. “Just like someone who’s always going to be a part of Bear River’s culture and someone you can always just hug and makes you laugh.”

When people began to call and cry after hearing the tragic news, Mr. McCrory decided that he needed to remove himself from Bear River.

“I was just trying to prolong life, which is weird,” Mr. McCrory said. “When it happened I had people call and cry so I disappeared” 

Now, in the wake of this news, and at the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year, students and staff want to reflect positively on the amazing man that Jack McCrory is and put out our hopes and prayers that Mr. McCrory, and his dog Bandit, will grace Bear River’s campus with their presence again soon.

Social Studies Teacher and Activities Director Matt MacDonald can still recall childhood memories of when he first met Mr. McCrory.

“Man, I remember going to his basketball camps when I was a little kid … like sixth grade, so that’s when I probably first got in contact with him,” Mr. MacDonald said. “(He’s) just a super friendly guy … he’s such a big part of the tradition of our school but then also about each of our lives individually.”

Many have praised Mr. McCrory for always being extremely generous when it comes to his relationships with people both on and off campus.

“I’m interviewing for the job at Bear River, I get hired, and Jack comes up to me and he goes, ‘Where you living?’,” Coach Scott Savoie recalled. “And I said, ‘well, you know, we hope to buy a house in Alta Sierra.’ He said, ‘well ‘till you do, you’re living with me.’ So we did, we lived with the McCrorys for probably about four weeks before our house finally closed but, you know, obviously (my) first impression was pretty awesome of Jack.”

Not only did McCrory open his home to Coach Savoie, but he also hosted Coach Duwaine Ganskie when he was first hired.

“He hosted me when I first didn’t have a place to live,” said Mr. Ganskie. “I got the job up here so I actually stayed in his house for a few weeks and my wife did as well … Giving is a great place to start, (to describe McCrory) and then also just fun and very easy to talk to. I don’t know if I’ve met anybody, at this school anyway, who knows as many students, knows as many staff, knows as many community members, so he’s very easy to talk to and very outgoing, (always) reaching out to people and giving himself, his time, any way he can help people.”

Mr. McCrory is very well known for the personal relationships he has built at Bear River. His ways of communicating and connecting with the staff and students has established him as a prominent role model throughout his many years of service.

“Well, he’s just very kind hearted,” stated Jeff Carrow, a social studies teacher. “I guess (that) would be the first thing, and just really really loves students. I mean he likes students more than anybody I’ve ever known. The relationships … he kind of was an inspiration for me as a new teacher to see how he related to students from all walks of life.”

Students know, from personal experience, that Jack McCrory truly cares about each student individually. 

“I think I first knew him when I was a freshman, so like 15 years old,” said Junior Logan Jenkins. “My first impression was that he was a really cool guy. I loved him right away … He seemed to know a lot about me, asked me a lot of questions about my life, my family, and my sports and how I’m doing in that.”

Just last year Mr. McCrory adopted Bandit, the former therapy dog candidate, from Senior Madisyn Lazalier.

“When I first went to him about adopting Bandit and he was like super open to it, and all … he needed to do was ask his wife, so that was probably the best memory I have of him,” said Lazalier.

Mr. McCrory described Bandit’s love of Bear River as well as his desire to come back to the school.

“Not only do I miss the school, my dog misses the school,” he said. “It’s hard to tell people about Bandit’s relationship here, but I got some video and stuff of kids just all over him and he’s a king here and he really misses the school.”

He went on to talk about how he came to adopt Bandit from Lazalier.

“When she came to my class, and Bandit was just a young pup, I would give her the handout or whatever it was, and then I’d take the dog out for a walk,” he laughed. “So she knew that I really liked, especially golden retrievers, and then when he had that elbow dysplasia, (meaning that he was no longer eligible to become a seeing-eye dog), she asked if I’d be interested in adopting him.”

Due to all of the amazing relationships he has created, most of the campus is simply waiting for good news, and to see McCrory in the hallways and classrooms again.

“Just hope he’s doing well, we miss him, you know, he’s too much fun to not see, and plus I want to see Bandit,” said Spanish teacher Shawn Mason. “We miss him and we love him and we wish him well.”

Thankfully, all of the love and positive thoughts seem to have made a difference.

“I decided to go to the City of Hope (National Medical Center) to get some help with the disease with my wife and my two nieces, and we’re there to schedule the tumor being removed because the doctor was concerned that if it grew larger I’d have more problems,” said Mr. McCrory. “(The doctor) said that it’s unbelievable, but my genetic makeup fits the profile of this new drug Keytruda that engages your own immune system to attack the cancer, and you’re part of the five percent of the population (that Keytruda can assist).”

Keytruda seems to be a complete switch according to Mr. McCrory.

“I’m going to confirm it September 6th down there at the City of Hope and I’m going to fly down and they’re gonna do some X-rays and stuff to confirm that the tumor is shrinking and that it’s doing really well, but in the meantime, I’m a different person,” Mr. McCrory said. “I only do the Keytruda once every three weeks, and I’m in and out of the chair in less than an hour. It’s a whole switch. It’s a miracle.”

Since the 6th of September, Mr. McCrory has clarified that his tumor has, in fact, shrunk by one-third of it’s size. Mr. McCrory wanted to personally acknowledge the people behind this miracle.

“So my local guy is Doctor Campell out of Sierra Nevada Hospital and he’s been the driving force for me, to cure me, and he’s done a great job,” he said. “So I want to mention him also, but my two nieces (who are registered nurses) pushed me towards seeking other stuff, and here I am … I’m happy, happy Jack. What are the chances of anybody being part of the five percent, that would make this thing work?… It’s not the cure per-say, but my wife said it best, is that now we have hope.”

Due to the amazing turn of events, there is a chance that we could be seeing Mr. McCrory back on campus very soon.

“Mid September probably… now I live in my fifth wheel over by target, and for 31 years, I had six acres and a big house now I’m in a trailer,” he chuckles. “Part of the master plan was to sell the house and travel, but I put a wrench in that. Like my wife said, we have hope now, and we’ll see how this thing goes. In the meantime, I feel great.”

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McCrory making strides as cancer shrinks