A Letter from Jason Stehly


On Tuesday January 19th I will receive my last dose of radiation at the cancer institute in Budapest. This may or may not mean that I am done with this fight, but it does mean that I am done with chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

This was as difficult as people told me that it would be. I stumbled through it, trying always to be courteous and presentable. It was hard work. Over the next two or three weeks it will continue to be hard work. I have a lot of healing to do and a lot of sleep to catch up on.

During this process there were one or two occasions where someone said that I was a hero. I thought about this for a long time and I think I like the sentiment, but I don’t think that I am the hero here. I am a survivor, which was what I set out to be.

Jennifer is a hero, for holding my hand and for pushing me to eat a little more or drink that last glass of water. She’s a hero for the hours of work and living in a small hotel room with me. She’s a hero for networking and problem solving for me, and she is not the only one.

All the students are heroes. For adapting to all the changes, and added pressures without ever complaining, for participating in all sorts ways, the little cards and crafts and messages to let me know that they miss me, and are thinking of me. Most of all they are heroes because they opened to me when things were difficult and scary, and they gave me so much hope and energy to go on, and me just wanting to get back to the classroom and work with them again.

The doctors, staff, and even fellow cancer travelers at the hospital, were heroes for extending kindness, help, and inspiration. They took care of a very odd duck that had landed among them even if we didn’t speak the same language.

J.C. is a hero for reassuring me that I had to focus on my treatment and recovery, that I could do that and really know that he would support me anyway possible.

This amazing community is filled with heroes. Peers on staff, good friends, and parents of our students all stepped up to offer medicine, transportation to and from Budapest, wonderful meals and just a wealth of support. We came home before Christmas and there was a wonderful tree set up in our living room! It was so wonderful that I have not been able to take it down yet. Normally I push to have it out before sundown on New Year’s Day.

I don’t think I could ever come up with a way to thank you, all my heroes, enough for what you have done for me. As you might expect, cancer is a major life changing event. Despite the pain, the sleeplessness, the weakness, you, my heroes, have seen me through and I know that this is a positive experience. While I could never thank you enough, I leave this with a determination to keep your heroism alive and pay it forward.

With more gratitude than words can express, thank you!

                                                                                       Jason Stehly