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West Michigan woman loses husband to cancer just months after child’s death

Posted at 5:08 PM, Feb 23, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-23 17:32:34-05

CEDAR SPRINGS, Mich. –Roughly six months after the death of one of her newborn children, a West Michigan woman lost her husband Monday after his battle with cancer.

FOX 17’s Jessica McMaster first reported on Kelly and Jake Francis and the support they’ve received from their community earlier this month.

The West Michigan couple began dating in 2004, and just half a year into their relationship Jake was diagnosed with testicular cancer.

“He did amazing,” Kelly said. “One round of chemo and kicked its butt.”

The couple got married in 2007 after he beat cancer that first time.

“When you reach five years of not having cancer, you’re considered cured,” Kelly told FOX 17 earlier this month. “So, August of 2009, we were so celebratory that we made it through the five years we never have to worry about this again.”

Then, came another unthinkable blow: Jake was diagnosed with a different form of testicular cancer. This time, treatment wouldn’t help and they were told the cancer would ultimately take his life.

Despite the tragic diagnosis, the couple still wanted to start a family.  Kelly got pregnant and learned they were having twins: a boy and a girl.

“I was so overwhelmed and blessed of course, and feeling so grateful that I had two children,” Kelly said. “But, I was scared because I knew someday I’d be raising them on my own.”

Kelly and Jake got another devastating diagnosis during her pregnancy.

When she was 17 weeks pregnant, they learned their daughter Avery had multicycstic dysplastic kidneys, which prevented her lungs from growing.

Avery died shortly after birth.

"We did have 63 minutes with her and I will forever treasure that amount of time,” Kelly said.

While they were grieving the loss of their daughter, Kelly and Jake rejoiced in the life of their son Evan.

With Jake’s cancer progressing, he was given six months to live in January.  He died Monday morning, according to a family friend.

“I feel like we were blessed with twins because Jake is too good of a father not to be one in heaven,” Kelly said. “He gets Avery in heaven and I get Evan here.”

Jake Francis' memorial service has been scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 28 at Sunshine Community Church.

The couple’s friend McKenzie Pepper is calling upon the community to help them out.

“Their hearts are just so genuinely good and caring and loving,” Pepper said. “They’ve been a huge inspiration to so many people.  We really are asking the community to reach out and support them financially. It would be amazing to give them the gift of time, together as a family, so that Kelly doesn’t have to worry about working.  So, they can spend as much time together with Evan.”

Family members and friends held a fundraiser for the family and are still taking donations on Kelly Francis' behalf through PayPal.  Upon logging in, a gift can be donated to kenziepepp@gmail.com.