OAKLEY, Calif. (KRON) – Having to say goodbye to a child is any parent’s worst nightmare.
For an Oakley woman, she turned tragedy into triumph, and helping other families along the way.
KRON4’s Jonathan McCall introduces us to Lakeisha Marshall-Phillips, one of our finalists for Remarkable Women.
“We say it’s like a club that nobody wants to be a part of,” Lakeisha said.
The membership comes with a high cost, the loss of a child.
For Lakeisha Marshall-Phillips and her husband, Leon Jr., getting in meant losing their son Justin.
“Going through it is a lot of emotions,” Lakeisha said. “Justin was always so strong. Even going through his treatment he would always say, ‘Why are you so sad.’”
In Feb. 2016, a week before his 12th birthday, Justin was diagnosed with cancer. For a year, the family spent plenty of moments at the hospital, which became a second home and the staff like family.
“There were a lot of days where you felt like giving up, and throwing in the towel,” Leon said.
After rounds of chemo and fighting, Justin died just weeks after his 13th birthday. After grieving his loss, Lakeisha says she wanted to do more.
“A seed was planted about a year after Justin passed away. It wasn’t until COVID hit that I really buckled down and made the vision a reality,” Lakeisha said.
From the seed spouted the Justin Parker Warrior House – The non-profit group provides support for families, whose children are also battling cancer.
The Phillips’ say the road to remission for young patients can be tough on families.
“I remember the look and the feeling on their face, what’s happening next,” Leon said.
They offer a listening ear, advice, they even bring food for families – The couple says it’s simply giving to others, what they received.
“You see a look of despair, it almost looks like defeat, and then we come through with a goodie basket and gift cards and food, cooked food instead of eating hospital food or fast food, a cooked meal,” Leon said.
The organization is raising donations for a physical location so they can better serve families impacted by cancer.
“Everything that I do, and even starting the non-profit is to give back to other people, and I just, I’m a giving person but sometimes I neglect myself,” Lakeisha said.
But someone didn’t forget about her, a co-worker nominated her as a KRON4 Remarkable Woman – At first, she thought it was a joke.
“I called her, and I said I got an email, and I thought it was a joke, but your name was in it. Oh, my gosh! I didn’t say anything because of all the work that you do with Justin Parker Warrior House,” Lakeisha said.
Leon called it overdue.
“When I really started thinking about it, I was like, congratulations, I was like she is a remarkable woman. It was time that someone, somewhere outside of the inner circle acknowledged that. We know how remarkable she is, like she said, she is selfless, putting others first sometimes to the detriment of herself,” Leon said.
The couple still has three children to raise but Justin is never far from them.
“In our spirit, Justin is with us,” Leon said. “He may not be with us here in the body, but he is definitely with us in spirit and in love.”
Lakeisha says the seeds planted in mourning have bloomed into something that Justin would have loved.
“I think he would be my biggest cheerleader, and very proud and if he was still here. He would still be here right next to me spearheading Justin Parker Warrior House,” Lakeisha said.