Thank You, Cancer

I left the hospital determined to enjoy every moment left in my life. When I was 19 years old, doctors told me I wouldn’t survive bone cancer. And at first, I was like, ”How could this happen to me?“ I was a good person. I was healthy and fit. I was only a teenager! How could I have cancer? After a couple of days, despair turned to rage, which I used to power my fight.

What I had was a rare pediatric cancer called pelvic Ewing’s Sarcoma, and because it was rare, doctors didn’t know exactly how to treat it. Still, I found the best doctors in the country and went to visit them. One recommended chemotherapy and radiation, adding in some experimental chemotherapy. Another suggested a different chemotherapy cocktail. A third suggested a combination of chemotherapy and hip surgery that would either put me in a wheelchair or at best land me with a cane for the rest of my life. I went with the third option.

Jason.Donohue

I knew the clock was ticking. Any day I might wake up to find cancer had spread. So I lived the next year in fear…and then lived another ten years in fear! Eventually, I had to start living my life again. I resolved to travel as much as I possibly could with my girlfriend at the time and I convinced Stanford to let me study remotely, taking a quarter of classes over the course of a year.

After my surgery, I was in a hospital bed for two months. The surgeons had removed a large part of my right pelvis, so I couldn’t move. I began physical therapy to learn how to walk again. Two months later I walked out of the hospital, leaning on crutches, and saw the sunlight and my car. At the time, these two things represented ultimate freedom! I couldn’t stop crying for the beauty of the moment.

I left the hospital determined to enjoy every moment left in my life.

In hindsight, if I had a chance to go back and relive my Ewing’s Sarcoma, I would do it again. Of course, I can only say that having survived. I know many are not so fortunate. What I mean is that going through the experience taught me to savor every moment. The idea changed my life. The very act of breathing air became beautiful. I saw flowers in a new light. Most importantly, I stopped doing all things I wasn’t passionate about and resolved that I would only spend my time in areas where I would be able to look back and say I was glad I did that.

My illness instilled a crazy drive in me. I completed a Bachelor’s and a Master’s Degree in four years, excluding my hospital year, because I was angry that cancer had taken a year from me. From there, I traveled all over to find the best career opportunities and ended up running my first company at twenty-six, finding a way to savor life through deep friendships and new experiences on weekends and evenings. I have run technology companies ever since, and also am blessed with a wonderful wife, three amazing children, and a happy home in the Bay Area.

I feel so fortunate to have learned what I learned when I was young, as it has allowed me to experience life to the fullest ever since.

Thank you, Cancer.