Restorative hope within community

Last Updated 24 June, 2015

Jared (’13) and Stephanie (Rotter, ’14) Trygg have had a unique journey through their college years, but faith and relationships have kept them grounded and sustained them.

In November 2010, Jared, then a junior, and Stephanie, a freshman, were a dating couple visiting Jared’s mom. A lump in Jared’s neck had grown large and uncomfortable enough to take him to the local emergency room. The prognosis was unclear, but a successive string of rapid-fire appointments followed, confirming bad news: Jared’s cancerous tumor was a sign of Hodgkins’ lymphoma, and he needed to begin treatment right away.

Jared registered incompletes in his classes and went home to Kirkland, Wash., to begin aggressive chemotherapy treatment. Progress seemed to be good, and his energy levels were high, so he returned to NNU for spring semester, continuing his treatments in Nampa. Life seemed to return to normal. Stephanie applied for and was accepted as an RA, and Jared was elected to serve as SGA president for the 2011-12 year. That summer, Jared’s health seemed much better, and he proposed to Stephanie, planning to marry her the following summer.

The fall, however, brought devastating news: A scan in November showed that the cancer cells had survived the year’s chemotherapy treatments and had spread into Jared’s chest. His now Stage IV condition urgently required more drastic treatment.

“This was a crushing reality,” recalls Kenton Lee, the SGA advisor, who had a close relationship with Jared. He recalls that Jared told the SGA the most recent news about his condition, “He shared the most meaningful words I have ever heard from a student about this university. What Jared said that night about the power of community—it is one of my top memories at NNU.”

Once again, Jared withdrew from classes after the semester and headed back to the Seattle area to begin preparations for a stem cell transplant, while Stephanie stayed in Nampa to finish her time as an RA in Ford Hall.

He stayed in touch with friends and the community at NNU. Jared recalls, “Overall, NNU produced so many anonymous letters, gift cards, support—at any other school, I would have felt lost.” Student Senate even voted to use a budget surplus to fly Stephanie to Seattle to spend Easter with her fiancé.

“Overall, NNU produced so many anonymous letters, gift cards, support—at any other school, I would have felt lost.”

That spring, an unexpected loss of insurance meant that Jared’s surgery had to be postponed indefinitely, leaving him dealing with round after round of intense chemotherapy just to keep the cancer at bay. Stephanie attempted to stay focused on her studies and work, but worry about Jared and efforts to plan a wedding that had to be rescheduled constantly according to Jared’s treatment burdened her.

Stephanie chose not to return to NNU in Fall 2012, opting to stay with Jared. New healthcare laws allowed Jared to procure health coverage; he obtained his stem cell transplant in November, followed by weeks in the hospital, since his brand new cells were especially vulnerable to sickness. Stephanie continually sat beside his hospital bed, stuffing wedding invitations into envelopes. Jared, still weak but growing healthy, married Stephanie on Dec. 28, 2012.

The weary newlyweds returned to Nampa to resume progress on their degrees in the spring of 2013. Jared, unable to be around large groups due to a period of increased risk of infection, took classes offsite and via independent study for his last semester. Stephanie, responding to a growing call that had begun in the hospital, changed her major to Christian ministry. Jared proudly walked across the stage in
May to receive his diploma from Dr. Alexander. “Being around that many people was still not an advisable decision,” recalls Jared, “but we had just been through too much to skip that moment.”

Throughout that semester, the Tryggs lived off-campus. When the summer arrived, Jared began looking for work, and Stephanie planned to finish her last year at NNU. Then those relational connections, so vital throughout their journey, brought them an opportunity to stay on campus working for the school.

“I had had both Jared and Stephanie work as RA’s when they were in school. Jared and Stephanie are positive, joyful and responsible, and they have a wisdom that comes from a strong relationship and from enduring trials,” says Karen Pearson, the director of residential life at NNU. “When I heard they might be interested in living in the Brick House during Stephanie’s senior year, I knew that they would be perfect for the role!”

“Living in the Brick House has been a great healing opportunity for us,” says Jared, who has begun an online Master of Arts in pastoral ministries. “Living on campus has helped us recover some of those college experiences that we lost to cancer treatment.”

“It’s also been great for our marriage,” says Stephanie. “In the beginning, our relationship was so focused on taking care of Jared and making sure he was getting better. Now, we’re able to grow a little more, both as individuals and as team directors of the Brick House.”

The couple will now move on to the next stage of life together. Stephanie accepted a job on the pastoral staff of Puyallup Church of the Nazarene, and Jared continues his online studies. Their relationships, strengthened by trials, will now provide a model for the new communities they will build in their ministry together.