TV host tells of heartache at losing wife and son to cancer

Cancer-survivor bravely tells of his unimaginable loss

A devastated dad has told how he lost his wife and eight-year-old son to cancer.

Jay Siltzer is himself a two-time cancer survivor.

But after beating the disease himself was left heartbroken when he not only lost his wife Kelly to Leukemia, but in a brutal twist of fate lost son Malachi to brain cancer last week.

Talking to PEOPLE Jay tells how he now believes he lost his wife two years ago, as she is now in heaven to look after Malachi.

The grieving father said: “I don’t think there’s any doubt. I think it’s clear why she went first – to be there for him.”

“He (Malachi) was confident that he was going to heaven, and he knew he was going to see his mom there.”

Jay, a veteran morning news anchor at a local TV station in Asheville, North Carolina, says his adopted son had a powerful faith from a very young age.

“He had a terrible start to life in Ethiopia. His birth mom dies and he comes to America and his adoptive mom dies. I asked him, ‘How can you still be happy?’ He said, ‘Because I know God.’ ”

It was in 1999 the family endured their first heartache when Jay was first diagnosed with testicular cancer.

He had surgery and radiation and was doing well until the cancer came back and he needed chemotherapy that doctors said would make it difficult to have kids.

But Jay and his then girlfriend Kelly decided they would figure it out together.

They married in 2000 and spent five years trying to have kids until they finally adopted one-year-old Malachi from Ethiopia.

Sadly, in 2011, when Malachi was just 3, Kelly was diagnosed with an aggressive and rare form of leukemia.

She died in 2014.

Now just the two of them, dad and son grew even closer, both playing on each other’s quirky senses of humor and love of practical jokes.

Jay’s Facebook posts turned into a book he self-published called The Book of Malachi, documenting their exploits.

“He made me a better person. He was outrageous. He was just my crazy kid,” he says.

Then last November, Malachi woke up with a headache.

It was a brain tumor.

The second grader endured two brain surgeries and chemotherapy and for a time it seemed he was getting better.

“He was doing okay,” Jay, 48 says.

“I had noticed there were some memory issues, but he completed second grade with his classmates and he had his first communion with his catholic school class.”

But sadly in June, an MRI showed the cancer had come back and spread throughout his brain.

Doctors delivered the devastating news that all treatment options had been exhausted.

“I knew eventually it was probably not going to be good, but I was surprised it came back so quickly” he says quietly, pausing for a moment.

“I had hoped we’d have more time.”

On Tuesday, it was standing room only at Immaculate Conception Church as almost 800 mourners came to say goodbye to Malachi.

“It’s humbling beyond belief,” Jay said.

“I miss him so much, but I wouldn’t have traded our time together for anything.”

The longtime newsman says going back to work where he is surrounded by friends and colleagues will help as he figures out how to go on.

“I have to find the strength to carry on, to preserve his memory by doing good for others,” he says. “I just have to trust in my faith that good will come from this and it will reveal itself in time.”

Nancy Brown
Associate Editor