ToquiNotes: Jerome Axton's Bended Knee Proposal Wraps up Difficult Journey with Beautiful Ending

By Jeff Toquinto on May 20, 2017 from ToquiNotes via

It’s been three years, actually a little more than three years, since a vibrant and healthy Jerome Axton headed in for a doctor’s appointment to get checked out for pain in his knee that he could hardly tolerate. Tendinitis perhaps; maybe an ACL injury, he thought.
After all, Jerome Axton – 22 at the time – was still going full tilt as much as possible on the basketball court and knee pain can be linked to so many things as a result of playing. The last thing he thought, when that pain first began, was that it was cancer.
Yet, that was the prognosis in April of 2014. Jerome Axton was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. In layman’s terms it’s a bone cancer more commonly associated with teenagers and rapid growth.
We’ve told you his story in this very blog and on stories on Connect as his future was met with uncertainty and a community not even remotely limited to Bridgeport rallied around one of the most popular young men in the area.
Axton vowed to fight it. He stated early on that it was time to “let the battle begin.” The battle began with the knowledge that he would lose his hair, he would be sick, he would undergo surgeries and walking again or doing the things he loved to do was not guaranteed.
I thought of all that this past week as I scrolled through social media as part of my job and saw a post made by Jerome’s aunt Tara McGann. Before I tell you about it and why it was so powerful, let me do a little rewind.
Not long after Axton began being treated and well after he had lost his hair, some weight and his skin color went from normal to translucent due to chemotherapy, Axton met a young lady named Brittany Alexander. They became friends. They became more than friends and earlier this month Jerome Axton was on bended knee proposing to her as Nat Frederick played music and friends and family watched.
There’s a lot of beauty to the entire story. Yet, what struck me was what his Aunt Tara said about being able to kneel down to ask for his future wife’s hand in marriage.
Kneeling to ask your wife to marry you is always a thing of beauty. In this case, it was the ultimate story of love conquering all.
As Aunt Tara said, there was a time when Jerome and everyone else knew there were no guarantees he “could count on that leg” to do anything. Yet, there he was kneeling for everyone to see showing his love to the young lady who loved him in the worst of times and without even knowing, the freshly engaged pair had also managed to spit in the face of cancer.
Aunt Tara wasn’t the only one thinking about the significance of bending down. Jerome Axton was all too familiar with the bitter irony as the time approached and even well before, and it weighed on his mind.
“You have to understand that I told people the week I met her that I was going to marry her and that it wasn’t luck that we met. She was placed with me for a reason and I thank God for that,” said Axton. “Knowing that and at the same time not knowing if that day arrived if I would be able to get down on my knee weighed heavily on me. That may seem simple to many, but I didn’t take the fact that I could do it when I proposed lightly. I thank God for that too.”
Yet there he was. With his good leg on the ground and his once diseased leg bent perfectly at a 90 degree angle.
It took nine surgeries for that to happen; the last one in December. It took nearly 50 treatments of chemotherapy. The days in the hospital and bed-ridden too many to count.
That’s the bad part of it. There’s so much of a good story here that it’s hard to condense. I don’t know Brittany Alexander. I met her at the Italian Heritage Festival last year and she seemed outgoing and is pretty and nice. While those are all good traits, there’s something that would have made me like her whether she turned her head in disgust when she met me.
By following Jerome’s battle, I knew how he met Brittany. It didn’t take place after he was on the mend and looking his best. It took place when Jerome Axton was still in the battle – minus hair, pale as a ghost and not the physical presence he once was.
Yet, Brittany saw something. She saw what many people see when they look into the face of a person battling cancer. She saw something to love.
That may sound odd for those that haven’t experienced it. Yet, I know what it’s like on some level as I’ve told people before the most beautiful my wife ever appeared to me was during her own battle with breast cancer, totally bald, somewhat pale and weak. I saw beauty and grace that maybe I should have never been entitled to see, but I saw it as clear as these word appear on your computer screen.
Brittany saw it too.
“We always joke about how I looked when we met. I was still swollen, bald and pale and didn’t look good. The thing was that night I wasn’t even looking to meet a girl, but we met and she saw past all of that,” said Axton. “It says a lot about her character. We just clicked that night and I had this wonderful person with me suddenly who had a big heart and stood by me through every surgery and situation after that. She was just like my mom; she was always there.”
Axton asked a favor of me and considering he was sharing his story and considering what he has been through, it was an easy favor to grant. Jerome Axton wanted everyone to know what his mother meant just a week removed from Mother’s Day.
“I want everyone to know how much I appreciate her. Not one treatment, not one moment through this whole ordeal did she leave my side,” said Jerome of his mother Anne. “We were close before this happened and maybe I wouldn’t ever change what happened because we are now best friends because of it.
“Now I have two women that are my rocks. One who has loved me since the day I was born and the other who began to love me when I was at my worst,” said Jerome. “Brittany went from a complete stranger to being one of the most important people in my life. After everything I’ve been through, no matter what lies ahead I know there’s nothing we can’t make it through. She saw something in me and I’ll always know I’m blessed because of it.”
I can’t explain why you see it. But you see it. Brittany Alexander saw it and it led to a remarkable journey that ended with a man on bended knee asking a young lady to continue to love him forever. There on the patio of the Almost Heaven Desserts with Nat Frederick playing the song “We Got Us” they hope to dance to two years into the future – May 4, 2019 – when they plan to make it official.
There were roses scattered, music playing, lights strung about, and pictures of the two hung up by friends Victoria Simon, Lexi Pinti and a host of other romantic co-conspirators. It was just about as perfect as you can get.
I like to fancy myself a novice journalist. But even I know when it’s time to directly quote someone else or steal from them. So I’ll go back to Aunt Tara to surmise exactly what took place that day.
“(Jerome) has a fiancé. And a future with her, the absolute greatest love of his life. And the happily ever after we all begged God to give him.”
Amen Aunt Tara. No one could have said it better.
Editor's Note: Photos courtesy of Jerome Axton, from top, includes him proposing, while second photo shows family and friends shortly thereafter. The third picture shows his mother caring to him during his often difficult time in his battle with cancer. Below, he is shown with Brittany Alexander just after she said yes.

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