Popular Navajo comedian sidelined by medical treatment
James Junes had cancerous polyp removed in February
FARMINGTON — One of the Navajo Nation's popular comedians is facing a medical condition that has sidelined him.
James Junes is known as half of the stand-up comedy duo James and Ernie. But in recent weeks, Junes has been recovering from complications after undergoing a colonoscopy last year.
Junes said in a recent interview at his Farmington home, he started having abdominal pain last spring but did not undergo a colonoscopy until December.
"I was guilty of procrastination," the 47-year-old said.
That colonoscopy identified a quarter-sized polyp that was stage 0 colon cancer.
The American Cancer Society states that stage 0 colon cancers have not developed beyond the inner lining of the colon, and surgery to remove the cancer is often the only treatment needed.
Junes said he has seen family members and friends diagnosed and undergo treatment for cancer — usually in the late stages of the disease — so he decided to have the polyp removed as a preventive measure.
"That scared me. I never thought that I would face something like that, and that made my mind up," he said about having invasive surgery on Feb. 14 that removed the section of his colon that held the growth.
A week after he was discharged from the hospital and as he was ready to leave for a show in Walker, Minnesota, he developed severe nausea and was taken to the emergency room.
"I thought it was going to be a quick fix … and it wasn't. I spent another 11 days in the hospital," he said adding he later learned a hole had formed in the area where the surgery was completed.
For the area to heal, he is restricted from consuming solid foods and drinking large amounts of liquids.
An intravenous line was inserted in his left arm, and he uses that line to deliver a bag of intravenous vitamins each day.
Junes is taking blood thinner medication after a blood clot was found during a CT scan on March 20.
"It's another waiting game until the first week in April, for that next CT scan, to see if I can eat something again," he said adding he appreciates the care he has received from doctors and nurses at the Northern Navajo Medical Center, the San Juan Regional Medical Center and Presbyterian Medical Services.
In the 17 years Junes has been a comedian, actor and motivational speaker, this is the first time he has had to cancel shows and appearances.
His wife, Rose Junes, works but his income provided the majority of the financial support for the family, which includes their four children.
To address his growing medical costs and household expenses, a Gofundme account was set up by one of Junes' sisters under James Junes Medical Fight.
"I've learned lessons, even in this small time frame. I've learned that I do need a helping hand, even once in a while," he said adding he is committed to returning to the stage.
After the account was created on March 21, word about Junes condition was shared on social media, and he is grateful for the support to him and his family.
"It was an outpouring that I never expected. …That's what got me out of bed. I figured if these people believe in me as much as I believe in them, maybe I should put action to their prayers," he said.
He added this situation has made him more aware about paying attention to his health, and he wants to share the message about health prevention and screening in his comedy and speeches.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.