Tobias Fenton, Tooele resident and father of five, was born and raised in West Jordan, UT as the second of six boys. He calls his mother a true saint for putting up with the antics of he and his five brothers, including, but not limited to stealing a fire hydrant from 7-11 and converting it into home décor for their friend’s bedroom.
Now, the tables have turned as Tobias and his wife of 2 years, Steph, are managing the hustle and bustle of raising 5 teenagers of their own under one “crazy” roof in their quiet neighborhood near Settlement Reservoir in south Tooele—Tobias’ home for the last 17 years. Between Kensey, age 18, Kaden-17, Andrew-15, Luke-14, and Tyler, age 12, trying to find something that everyone likes to do at the same time can be tough. They do, however, enjoy barbequing, watching movies and sports, attending one another’s activities, and just being together as a family.
The time the Fenton family gets to spend together became even just a little more precious this past Thanksgiving, 2017, when Tobias was officially diagnosed with Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma, or ACC—a rare form of cancer than is known to be unpredictable in nature, and of which there is not currently enough information to have a cure.
To some, this might seem like a very unfair turn of events. This has become a frequent topic of conversation in the Fenton home. The way Tobias sees it, although he would love to grow old with his wife, see his kids get married and be a grandfather someday, he refuses to see the possibility that those things may not happen as “unfair.”
Instead, he looks back on his life with gratitude for all the things he has been able to do—to be married to his beautiful wife, have 5 wonderful children, and to have spent his life working hard in his career at Comcast and doing things he loves like playing sports and creating with his tools in the garage--things another might be thankful to have been able to experience. He chooses to see every day as a gift and to look forward with hope—just thankful to be alive and experience everything life throws at him—even the painful things.
Although at times an oppressive tutor, Tobias says that cancer has taught him the value of living. He lives every day in the present—not waiting for some future moment to let the people around him know how much he loves them or to teach his children. And to get through the most difficult moments, he relies on his wife, Steph. “She makes me feel like I can do anything…and she can always make me laugh,” he says.
In spite of his uncertain future, Tobias radiates optimism and hope—choosing to personify the words of famed Bob Marley as his new life motto, “Don’t worry about a thing. Cause every little thing, is gonna be alright.”
Michelle Saunders, a small town girl from Mountain Green, Utah, and her husband Chad, have loved raising their four children out of the city in Stansbury Park, UT. They felt it was the perfect place for Ryan, age 23, Connor-21, Mattie-20, and Meghan, age 16, to really excel at the things they love to do. Michelle’s passion is her kids—just being a part of their lives and supporting them in whatever they do—from film school, to shopping, to just enjoying each of their unique personalities.
Michelle fondly recalls the years she spent in Mountain Green-camping, splashing in the creek, and just living “in a small town where you could run, play, and just be.” Michelle later graduated from Cosmetology School at Weber State and has been a hair stylist all her life. She also loves to bake, knit, read, travel, and watch Survivor.
Although Michelle has always enjoyed life to the fullest, she feels that being diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia this past January, 2018, has perhaps taught her to enjoy her family and friends on an even deeper level and to take nothing for granted. She feels that her 25-year marriage to Chad, although already wonderful, has become even that much sweeter as they have drawn closer to one another through the experiences cancer has brought them.
The Leukemia diagnosis came as a complete shock to her and her family. In the process, Michelle has been humbled and has had to learn to accept help and depend on others. She has seen miracles and has been blessed in ways that have left her incredibly thankful.
Chad’s Christmas gift to Michelle this past year perfectly sums up what the Saunders family is all about: A framed picture that reads “We Can Do Hard Things.” This has been their family motto ever since.
And Michelle truly can do hard things. Her next goal? Getting healthy enough to be at the homecoming of her son, Connor, from his LDS mission on October 3rd. Being there at the airport to see him return is what currently motivates her to recover. That goal, combined with her faith in Jesus Christ and her Father in Heaven, bring Michelle peace and hope for even more miracles in the future.
At first glance, 14-year old Makenna Roberts might look like your average outdoor loving, Tooele county born and raised teenage girl. She has grown up loving the outdoors—fishing, playing soccer, kayaking, four wheeling, catching frogs, and even riding her grandpa’s side by side on family camping trips. She loves all things Disney and fondly recalls many family vacations to Disneyland, especially riding the California Screaming roller coaster with her dad every year.
But look a little closer, and you will discover that Makenna is no ordinary girl. The experiences life has brought her have revealed within Makenna an inner strength that even she did not know she possessed. She has come to embody one of her favorite quotes by A.A. Milne: “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think, and loved more than you’ll ever know.” Makenna is indeed incredibly brave, strong, smart, and so very loved.
Makenna was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma, a form of bone cancer, on March 15, 2018. Life has changed drastically for Makenna since that day. She is no longer able to go to school where she loved playing in the orchestra and spending time with her friends or participate in many of the activities that bring her joy, but instead must endure painful procedures and a new reality of feeling sick nearly all the time. Her parents have had to take off a great deal of work to take care of her both in and out of the hospital.
Although this has all been incredibly difficult, Makenna optimistically shared that there have been some positive changes through it all as well. Makenna has come to learn at a very young age just what is truly important to her—her family. Things that seemed important before, she says, just don’t seem important anymore. Her family, consisting of her parents—Shelli and Don—and two brothers and two sisters—now spend as much time together as they can.
Through cancer, Makenna has learned that she can do hard things. But she is also careful to point out that although she is not able to do many of the things she loves right now, she does not have to let cancer define who she is or what she will become.
When asked about her favorite memory growing up, Stansbury-resident and mother of four, Amy Simmons, responds, “That is an impossible question.” Raised in Magna, Utah within walking distance of grandparents and countless cousins, Amy describes her childhood as idyllic, complete with magical holidays and birthdays and endless hours of horseback riding, fort making and night games out in the countryside with her family. She grew up completely surrounded by those she loved, knowing they loved her in return.
Amy has since devoted her life to creating the same kind of idyllic childhood for her own children. She and her husband, Collin, are parents to Mack-age 10, Sadie-7, Elsie-4, and Luke, age 2. Creating happy, beautiful memories for their children is Amy’s greatest passion in life. She is a tremendously involved mother—getting down in the trenches with her children and whatever their current interests may be. From learning about weather patterns and rock formations, to baking homemade pizza together on Friday nights, to bike rides, playing in the back yard and even making slime together, Amy happily declares that her little family is what she lives for.
Living in the moment with her little family is exactly what Amy has been doing since being diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer this past August, 2017. Although cancer seems to have taken over much of her life and has brought even her little children into the thick of the battle, Amy says that being diagnosed with a terminal illness has taught them to hold on tight to all the little moments. “Tomorrow is not promised to any of us,” she says, but having this diagnosis has forever ended the days when they lived in “limbo”, waiting for the next phase of life to begin. Now, they savor and fully enjoy every moment, here and now.
Amy is a woman of many talents. In addition to being an involved and passionate mother, she is a dedicated nurse at Mountain West Medical Center in the Labor and Delivery Department. She states that although nursing can be a grueling field, the bonds she has created with the strong, smart, and compassionate women she has worked with there are irreplaceable and that they have truly become her extended family. Amy also loves to travel, write on her blog—Amy’s Hope--, and has a special talent for party planning. She puts every ounce of the love she has for her family into all the little touches and details that make a great holiday or party come together. She jokes that although her husband calls it excessive, she prefers “attention to detail.”
Amy is also a woman of great faith. She declares that she believes in a God of miracles. Yet, she also knows that perhaps a miracle for her may look different than a miracle for another. No matter what happens in the end, she has complete faith in God’s plan for her and her family. “I know whose hands I am in and I will trust in the miracles I have been blessed with already in my life.”
In the meantime, she is overwhelmed with the outpouring of support she has received from her family, friends, church members, community, and even complete strangers. Once again, just as in the days of her childhood, she is surrounded by those she loves, knowing just how dearly they love her in return.