Utah woman chooses career in healthcare after scan helps save son’s life

OGDEN, Utah — Janine Hunsaker knows firsthand how the results of a medical scan can change life’s direction overnight. 

Hunsaker’s youngest son, Brigham, was only two years old when diagnosed with a cancer called neuroblastoma. The family had noticed Brigham acting differently, stumbling or refusing to walk.

“We took him to the hospital, he ended up getting an MRI and they found a tumor above his right lung,” Hunsaker said. “That changed the whole aspect of my future.”

What followed was nearly three years of treatment, including surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible. Brigham was also diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder known as opsoclonus-myoclonus-ataxia syndrome, or OMAS, which affects the nervous system of about one in 1 million children. 

“My emotions were up and down, wondering, would he get better? Would this be our life for the next who-knows-how-many-years?” Hunsaker said. 

Two and half years after the tumor was found and partly removed, Hunsaker said it disappeared without a trace: “Just a complete miracle.” 

The whole experience led Hunsaker to Weber State University with a goal to learn X-rays in the two-year Associate of Applied Science in Radiography program. 

“I always knew I wanted to go into the medical field, I just didn’t know the direction I wanted to take,” she said. “It was when my son got sick I realized — it was that pivotal moment — that this truly saves lives, and I can do that and help people.” 

From ultrasounds to mammography, Hunsaker was fascinated by the opportunities available in radiologic sciences — and how far technology has come in saving lives. 

“Everybody needs and wants answers, and that’s what this career does,” Hunsaker said. “It took time and dedication to get into this program, but it’s been so rewarding,” 

Hunsaker said she gained close friendships, even with professors: “They care about you as an individual, they know your name, they know what’s going on in your life.” 

While immersed in the program, Brigham was thriving, but Hunsaker still faced challenges. For a time, she was going to school and raising five children alone because her husband had to take a job out of state. 

“There were times I wanted to give up. But I looked at my kids, I looked at my husband who has multiple degrees, and he did it, so why can’t I?” she said. 

Professors noticed Hunsaker’s resilient spirit and provided support along the way. 

“Janine is one of those students who other students look up to,” said Kim Parkinson, assistant professor of radiologic sciences. “She worked hard to balance family and school, and she’s also involved in her community.” 

Throughout her schooling, Hunsaker led support groups for mothers whose families are affected by cancer — all while maintaining a 4.0 GPA.

She graduated from Weber State in April and is already working as an X-ray technologist at an orthopedic clinic in Logan, and being trained at a nearby mammography clinic.

“There’s a really high demand for X-ray techs,” she said. “For a two-year program, it’s one of the highest paying jobs you can get with an associate’s degree.” 

Hunsaker said her family, including Brigham, is proud of her accomplishments.

“I think he doesn’t realize exactly what I’m doing, but I try to explain that I get to help people who helped him. He believes that’s pretty cool.”


Bryan Magaña, public relations director
801-626-7948, bryanmagana@weber.edu


Bryan Magaña, public relations director
801-626-7948, bryanmagana@weber.edu