Our Story

The Beginning

Our names are Joe and John Haji. Along with our other brother and our two sisters, we are five siblings in a family of seven. On May 8th, 2017, our lives would change forever.

It all started when our sister, Jinnan, started experiencing some random numbness in her right hand and decided to visit the hospital. After some initial diagnosis and tests, doctors decided to perform an MRI and some CAT scans. What we would find out next was shocking. There was a large “mass” situated deep in her brain, wrapping her brain stem and thalamus. A few days later, we would have a biopsy done so that we could have a tissue sample sent in for testing. After two long agonizing weeks, the results would come in telling us that what she had was a very rare aggressive form of brain cancer known as Diffused Midline Glioma harboring the H3 K27M mutation, which was typically a high-grade pediatric brain tumor. An estimated 800 people a year are diagnosed with it. Of those found in adults, the average age was 52. Jinnan had just celebrated her 25th birthday…

This stung deep for us because growing up, as siblings, we were extremely close, some say inseparable. At that moment, life completely stopped for us, and the only thing we cared about was finding a cure for this “inoperable” brain tumor. Through extensive research, we came across a doctor who specializes in studying this deadly disease and performing keyhole procedures in Awake Craniotomy.

After a few phone calls with him and some research, I learned he was a highly sought after surgeon operating out of Oklahoma University Medical Center, and he had an operating table reserved for Jinnan. Our entire family purchased one-way tickets to Oklahoma, praying for a miracle. On June 8th, 2017, Dr. Michael Sughrue was able to perform the procedure successfully, removing almost 90% of the brain tumor cells.

From here, Jinnan’s road to recovery was going to be a long one. She would need to stay in Oklahoma for a couple of months while undergoing radiation therapy to help shrink and stop the remaining 10% from spreading. It wasn’t until the end of July that our parents and sister would return to Michigan, where we live, to carry out the rest of the recovery for Jinnan. This would include ongoing sessions with Speech Pathologists, Physical Therapists, and Oncologists to monitor and speed up recovery. She was strong both mentally and physically – characteristics of a CrossFitter. The improvements she was making were incredible and inspiring. Just about a year later, in June 2018, she was walking in John’s Wedding!

Throughout her journey, our family was aware of the severity of this disease and the chances that it would come back. Unfortunately, in July of 2018, it did just that. We went through a few more rounds of radiation therapy and chemotherapy, which helped stunt the growth of the tumor cells, but even that was not enough.

By January 2019, we had performed two rounds of radiation therapy, chemotherapy, tested targeted therapy drugs, changed diet implementing natural remedies, and participated in two different clinical trials. No matter how hard she fought though, the cancer cells were spreading rapidly and starting to affect Jinnan’s quality og life. After a long, hard fought battle, on August 13th, 2019, Jinnan lost her fight to brain cancer but gained her angel wings.

Why Giving the Dollar?

After losing our sister, it doesn’t resonate more now than when they say, “You make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you GIVE.” While in Oklahoma, our family realized that the surgery she would undergo costs upwards to about $250,000 and on top of that, we would need to stay in Oklahoma for a few months, requiring added expenses for lodging, food, etc. So we started a GoFund Me and to our surprise, we were able to raise almost $30,000. Our family felt so blessed as we kept seeing so many family and friends, and other individuals within our inner circle giving back generously. It was then that we realized that not everyone is as fortunate. Not everyone has a strong support system or community of family and friends behind them. This is where we decided that we should do something to fill in that gap.

So, in honor of our sister we started this non-profit organization called Giving the Dollar. We thought long and hard about how we could be different and how we can make a difference in the lives of so many people. It’s as simple as signing up for just $1 a month. That’s less than a candy bar, a cup of coffee or a bag of chips. We are bringing to life the idea that giving back on a small scale can result in a HUGE impact. We want to change the way people think about giving back, and our MISSION and GOAL is to give 100% back… and we’ll prove it. Each month, we will send every member a video and email showing you exactly where your $1 went and how it helped an individual.

$2,540 of $1,000 raised
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