North Carolina brothers Preston and Parker Jackson were both diagnosed with the same debilitating pancreatic cancer as their father, Wayne Jackson, within a few weeks of each other in 2016.
“I did a lot of crying and a lot of praying,” Preston and Parker’s mother, Sharon Sechriest, tells PEOPLE. “It’s hard for me to swallow that both of my kids and their father have cancer, but I tell them that they will get through it and be fine.
“They are so loved and [I] will do anything in my power to make sure they live a long life.”
Wayne was diagnosed with MEN-1, a hereditary condition associated with tumors of the endocrine glands, in November 2014 and doctors found 12 cancerous pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors in his body. Soon after, Preston and Parker tested positive for MEN-1 and, in 2016, both brothers were found to each have two tumors on their respective pancreases.
The father and his two sons “face the diagnosis together” as they attend the same doctors, compare symptoms and talk about the way they are dealing with the cancer.
“I feel guilty,” Wayne, 46, tells PEOPLE. “I know it’s not my fault, because I had no idea I had this condition until a few years ago, but to see the boys suffering and going through the same things I do — I feel a sense of guilt.
“When I’m by myself and I think about it, it hurts.”
Parker, 18, is a senior at Chase High School in Forest City, North Carolina, and Preston, 21, is a business major at UNC Charlotte. Doctors found Parker’s tumors in February 2016 and Preston’s tumors were discovered six weeks later.
“I told doctors I wanted them both tested and they thought, ‘Oh that’s crazy!’ ” says Sechriest. “When they got the results, I was angry but I knew there were people out there praying for me.”
Although the boys try to lead normal lives, their constant pain keeps them from playing sports and, at times, from attending classes.
“When Preston found out about Parker’s diagnosis, he was so devastated that he prayed to God that he would have cancer to so his brother wouldn’t have to go through it alone,” says Sechriest, who split from Wayne 17 years ago though they two remain close. “That’s brotherly love if I ever heard of it.
“It seems God answered his prayer.”
In 2014, Wayne had his 12 tumors removed — although recent lab workups show his tumor marker elevated.
The devoted dad also accompanies Preston and Parker when they fly to Houston every few months to visit specialists crafting a treatment plan.
“It’s inevitable they will need surgery, but it’s so high risk, they are trying to hold off until it’s absolutely necessary,” says Sechriest. “And with this condition, they will go through many surgeries in their lifetime.
“It’s not a good diagnosis.”
Wayne’s 9-year-old son with his second wife also has the MEN-1 genetic condition, although he shows no signs of tumors at this time.
“I don’t have words, to find out I have three kids that will have to follow in my footsteps and have to deal with this condition their entire lives too, it’s devastating,” says Wayne. “We lift each other up to the Lord in prayer and make the best of what God has given us.”