Resiliency Personified

RE-SIL-IENCE:

The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness

The ability to become strong, healthy or successful again after something bad happens.

An ability to cope with problems and setbacks.

Resiliency. This is one of the strongest and most defining qualities which shines through in the hundreds of applications we review each year for scholarship consideration at Cancer for College. Story after story, we read sentiments such as, “I want to  use my cancer experience to make a difference for others,” or “I want to give back,” and even, “would I chose cancer again? Definitely, because it changed my life for the better.” These young cancer patients have the strength of character and determination to face their diagnosis with fists drawn, ready for battle — a “game on” attitude.

But the cancer treatment road is long, and full of treacherous potholes and ominous detours. It’s easy to get thrown off-course or knocked down. These kids, even in the face of such adversity, are able to continue living their young lives with purpose and meaning. They do their very best to keep up with school work and friends, even though they may be sidelined from sports and all the other activities which fill a young person’s day. They endure surgeries, hospitalizations, toxic chemotherapy, week in, week out. And they do so with a can-do attitude, remaining positive and hopeful. Many of them become active participants in the cancer community, raising both awareness and funding to the general cause, all the while undergoing treatment and keeping up with their studies. In a word, they are resilient.

Considering resiliency from the Cancer for College perspective, one truly incredible scholarship recipient comes to mind. We are all very attached to him, and we think you will be too.

We first became acquainted with Jonathan Chung in the summer of 2004, when he was referred to our scholarship program by another recipient. Even before meeting him in person, we sensed that Jonathan was not your ordinary 22- year-old college student.

WFJohnChung

Jonathan Chung meets one of his favorites

You see, Jonathan was diagnosed with brain cancer when he was 15, and after seven years, was still undergoing treatment. Despite living in Southern California while being cared for by doctors at a Houston cancer clinic, Jonathan was pursuing his studies in business administration at a community college and staying active in volunteer service.

In 2005, Jonathan was accepted to California State University, San Marcos, and we were proud to award him with a $4,000 perpetual scholarship. He accepted his scholarship in person at our annual benefit. One instantly sees Jonathan as a gentle, kind, intelligent and grateful soul, as are his parents. We were delighted to provide some financial assistance for this young man.

In a patient testimonial for his treatment clinic, Jonathan shares his story:

My name is Jonathan Chung, and my battle with brain cancer began in 1997.  In late June 1997, after I had completed my sophomore year of high school, I awoke one morning feeling very dizzy and suffering a severe headache.  On the third day after my symptoms had not abated, my mother took me to the doctor.

Following a CAT scan and MRI, I underwent surgery for Hydrocephalus.  A VP shunt was placed in my brain to relieve pressure.  I underwent further surgery, however, the neurosurgeon was unable to remove a tumor mass in my brain.  I was diagnosed with Pylocytic Astrocytoma.  At that time, the major tumor measured 6 centimeters across.

My prognosis was grim.  The neurosurgeon gave me two years at the best.  The oncologist recommended a chemotherapy regimen of two toxic drugs, but she was unable to say if they would work to reduce the tumor.  Further MRIs showed that the cancer had ceded in other parts of my brain and spine.  The oncologist further recommended radiation in conjunction with chemotherapy.  My parents were told of the toxic side effects of both treatments.

A neighbor had read of the Burzynski clinic in Dr. Julian Whitaker’s newsletter.  My father did extensive research on this through the internet.

My father and I flew to Houston in November 1997.  I began treatment on Antineoplastons almost immediately.  It was a rough start for me, however, here I am 5 years later, despite the odds initially given by the neurosurgeon.  My MRI now shows the largest tumor to be less than 1 centimeter across.  My shrinkage since the beginning of the treatment has been nearly 90 %.  I look forward to more shrinkage.

The Antineoplaston therapy, the prayers of family and friends, my faith in God, have all contributed to giving me a new lease on life.  For this, I am very grateful.

A couple of years passed. Jonathan’s prognosis diminished. It was uncertain whether or not he would return to school, and his Cancer for College scholarship was placed on hold. Ultimately, we received an unforgettable and haunting call. It was Jonathan’s mom. Jonathan was being placed into home hospice care, and in her tender and quiet voice, she asked if perhaps Jonathan’s scholarship money could be used for someone else? We were heartbroken for them.

Jonathan remained in our thoughts, but, not wanting to bother the family in what we knew must be a difficult time, we assumed his long struggle with brain cancer had ended. Until one day, we received an email, seemingly a voice from the beyond. It was Jonathan. He wanted to attend our annual benefit that year. Not only was he a cancer patient and a scholarship recipient, but turns out also a big fan of Cancer for College’s dear friend and event host, Will Ferrell. Even though he wouldn’t be returning to school, could he still come to the event, he asked.

Having Jonathan at our event that year was a tremendous honor. He was frail, and in a wheelchair. But he still had that unique spirit that drew us to him years ago. He was able to meet “Mr. Ferrell” (as Jonathan, with his impeccable manners, addressed him) And Mr. Ferrell, with his signature genuine heart, knelt down next to Jonathan and together they had a fantastic conversation, despite the crush of 600 people swirling around them, all of them vying for a moment with celebrity.

We last saw Jonathan this past May, at our golf tournament celebrating Cancer for College’s 20 year anniversary, but we are still in contact. Today is Jonathan’s 32nd birthday. Happy, happy birthday to you, Jonathan Chung. We adore this young man for so many reasons: for his strength of character, for his positive attitude, for his love of life and his gratitude. And especially for his resiliency.

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