Dad’s cancer battle deepens bond with son

James Harris went to work on the evening of Saturday, April 11, 2009, just like he had for years. He wasn’t feeling well, but his family depended on him for a paycheck, so he worked his overnight shift.

He came home to his family in Torrington on Easter Sunday and elected to go to bed, hoping some good rest would cure his fever.

But the awful feeling never subsided. No matter how much he tried to fall asleep, the pain still lingered. It wasn’t until one of his children approached him in the early evening that he addressed the problem, reported the Casper Star-Tribune (

“I said, ‘Go get your mom, I think I’m dying,'” Harris recalled.

The Easter meal was cut short and the Harris family went to the emergency room. A young Logan Harris waited with his mother and siblings in the hospital for hours.

After numerous tests, the doctors couldn’t pinpoint a diagnosis. James’ blood test brought back problematic results and a chest x-ray showed a dark spot near his lungs.

“They wanted to get a better picture of it so they did a CT scan,” he said. “The doctor came in, about two in the morning, and said, ‘Here’s the thing: You’ve got one kidney and the kidney that you have has a huge mass on it, looks like it’s about to burst at any time.'”

So James was transported by ambulance to Denver with his family following close behind for the entire two-hour trip. Upon arrival, the doctors immediately operated on his kidney to remove the mass.

“They took half of my kidney there,” Harris said.

Unfortunately, that operation was just the beginning. For nearly three years James was in and out of hospitals as his cancer kept returning.

A year after the first operation doctors were forced to operate again as a growth reappeared on his kidney.

“They took another half of my kidney there,” he said.

Another year after that, a mass had formed on his lungs and another surgery was needed.

“So they took another part of my lungs,” he said. “It’s just been crazy, you know.”

Through all of the surgeries, the Harris family stayed positive. Logan was just 10 years old during that eventful Easter but he began to look after his 6-year-old brother Corbin as their mother, Tara, cared for their 18-month-old siblings and their ailing father.

Emergency rooms and doctors became a standard for the family.

“The little ones, that’s all they’ve known is hospitals,” James said. “I know it was tougher for them and tougher for my wife than what I had to do. I think it’s made them tougher, too. They’ve had to overcome a lot of obstacles.

“It’s shown them that there’s nothing that can’t be overcome.”

His cancer began to stay in remission after the third operation and the Harris family overcame those obstacles with a bigger appreciation for their father and husband.

“It makes you realize that it can be taken away from you like that,” Logan said. “You can’t take it for granted. I don’t know, it’s crazy that something can be taken away from you like that.”

Now a senior at Torrington, Logan found solace in sports to help work through the pains he faced with his father. The two were already incredibly close and the hospital visits only brought them closer together.

A football bond

“Sports helped a lot because it was a thing that me and him had in common,” Logan said. “We bonded, especially in the winters, watching football. Sundays we were always watching football together. It’s brought us together a lot.”

Football has always been a cornerstone of the Harris family. If you were born a Harris then you grew up watching football well before you could play it.

“We’ve always had football in the family,” Logan said. “We’ve had a couple of relatives play at the collegiate level. One of them played at the pro level. Ever since I was little I always looked up to those two and it’s just progressed up and up.”

James’ younger brother played football at Chadron State and Tara’s cousin started all four years at Nebraska before playing five years in the NFL.

“It’s neat for them too to see this little kid all of a sudden grown up and following in their footsteps,” James said. “It’s neat.”

Using his family’s football legacy as motivation, Logan has become a standout on the Trailblazers’ offensive and defensive line. His imposing figure (6-foot-3, 290 pounds) creates lanes for running backs and sheds blockers to haunt opposing quarterbacks.

A Star-Tribune Super 25 selection last year, the name Logan Harris has become synonymous with football in eastern Wyoming.

“Just pride, there’s not a feeling like it. I wrestled and played football and I didn’t get that feeling when I was playing,” James said of Logan’s accomplishments. “Watching your kids, watching all their hard work pay off makes you extremely proud. Can’t even explain it, it’s just pride.”

Even through illness, James and Tara have gone to all of Logan’s games. James coached Logan for the first two years of peewee football and was determined to watch him play, even if that meant a nearly seven-hour drive to Jackson.

“He’s always been as excited about football as I have,” Logan said. “He’s always at the games, probably more nervous than I am. So it’s fun. It’s a great experience. Every sport too, he’s always excited and he’s always been there for me.”

Huskers to Cowboys

James and Tara lived in Lincoln, Nebraska, for years before moving to Torrington. Their time in Lincoln, coupled with Tara’s cousin’s history at Nebraska, made them Husker fans.

“Growing up, we’ve been Nebraska fans,” Logan said. “We pushed away Wyoming.”

It wasn’t until about three years ago that the Harris family started to embrace the Cowboys.

As Logan began to develop into one of the state’s best football players, the family realized that he could play at the next level; they just didn’t know it would be at the highest level.

“From probably his freshman year I knew, DII, he’d probably play somewhere,” James said. “But as last year went on and going through the camps this summer I knew that, yeah, he’s got it.”

The University of Wyoming had scattered contact with Logan during his junior year. The coaching staff sent letters “here and there,” letting Logan know they were interested enough to invite him to Laramie.

Logan attended a Junior Day, where high school juniors are hosted by the football program and shown the facilities. After that visit his mind was made up. There were no other options.

“He didn’t want to send any tape anywhere else, he wanted to go to Wyoming,” James said. “From that first time we went to that Junior Day it was right there. It kind of set in there. We went up for spring ball, they had a practice. The coaches wanted Logan to come up so we went up to watch an indoor practice. It was a Saturday, and after that visit he felt that this is where he wanted to be.”

James noted that not sending tape to anywhere else was risky, but that risk paid off when he looked at his phone during a break from work.

“I was at work, he was at the camp and he texted me and told me on the lunch break that they offered and that was it,” James said. “I knew going into that camp it was all or nothing and when he texted me and told me they offered it was really cool.”

Despite years as a Husker fan, being at War Memorial Stadium was where Logan was meant to be.

“The coaches there, they made me feel like I was home,” Logan said. “I’ve talked to a few other colleges and you really didn’t get that hospitality feeling there, but at UW I felt it, especially now seeing that they’re 4-2. It’s exciting, I’m really looking forward to going there.”

Some of the Wyoming coaching staff’s history at Nebraska has made for a smooth transition. Head coach Craig Bohl was born in Lincoln and played at Nebraska before serving as an assistant coach for the Huskers.

“It’s the same rules that the old Nebraska had that he grew up watching,” Logan said of his dad. “He goes there and talks to the coaches and he’s like, ‘Man, that reminds me of old-school Nebraska but now at Wyoming.'”

‘I play for him’

With his cancer in remission since the surgery on his lung, James has stayed optimistic while acknowledging the possibility of it returning.

“I think I’ve got it beat,” James said. “But with this type of cancer that I had, this renal cell carcinoma, there’s not a cure for it. My oncologist basically said, ‘We don’t know what to do with you.’

“There’s never been a case like mine. He said, ‘Most people in your situation, we know what the results are at this time,’ and it’s … they’re not here. There’s no protocol for me.”

Unlike others with kidney issues, James doesn’t need to undergo dialysis. His kidney, while only the quarter of its previous size, still works.

“One day it will quit but when that happens, it happens,” he said.

Prescriptions help his body stay functional and some days are better than others.

“I take about 22 pills a day and there’s days I can’t work,” James said. “It will come out of nowhere and just hit me and I just need to recharge.”

While faced with his father’s mortality, Logan has responded with love both on and off the field.

“I play for him,” Logan said. “I don’t know how I would be without him here. I’ve got to play my hardest to show him that I’m there to play for him. I don’t know how it would be if he was gone.”

If he didn’t before, his father sure knows that now. The former Husker fan wears a Wyoming cap and is thrilled with Logan’s decision to become a Cowboy.

James is excited about watching younger brother Corbin play on Fridays and traveling to Laramie to see Logan on Saturdays.

“It will be fun trying to balance it next year,” James said. “Logistics might be tough but we’ll make it work. We might have to take turns driving, me and my wife.”

Football road trips are more preferred than that long drive to Denver over seven years ago.

With three children younger than Logan, there are a lot more games left to be played — and James plans to be there for all of them.

Leave a Reply