Jason's Letter - Christmas Wish 2021

Dear Mark,

Often when asked about their cancer journey many patients will say “everything was going well until my cancer diagnosis.”This certainly was not the case for Jason.In 1995, he graduated from the Art Institute of Philadelphia and became a member of a crew that handled audiovisual and lighting for an event production services company.It was an exciting job that took him to every state with the exception of Oregon and Hawaii.After growing tired of spending 6 to 8 months on the road at a time, and desiring “the white picket fence”, he decided to leave this work and eventually settled in Savannah.He was able to find work as a day laborer but the wages weren’t great and rents were high.He ultimately became homeless.His first encounter with Memorial Health was for lacerations he received to his head as a result of being pistol whipped and punched in the head. After he was discharged from the hospital, he walked “home” to homeless camp over 3 miles away.This was in July 2020.

Jason’s second visit to Memorial Health was less than a year later coming to the ER with abdominal pain, internal bleeding and diarrhea. He also noted some weight loss and decreased appetite.A CT scan, MRI and colonoscopy soon revealed a diagnosis of rectal cancer.

Jason has completed his first round of chemotherapy, and is now receiving a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.When he finishes his course of therapy he will be receiving surgical treatment and then additional chemo afterward.This is a difficult course of treatment but Jason faces it with determination and upbeat attitude, He conducts himself with dignity and grace.He is receiving temporary housing, food and transportation assistance while undergoing treatment and makes really good uses of these resources.His history of being homeless seems to lend itself to his independence and resourcefulness.He still has many needs though.

When I asked what he really needs he said a heavier jacket as well as laced work/army boots for colder weather.He added that his chemo has caused his hands and feet to be more susceptible to the cold.He has a tablet but could use a laptop and plans on looking into getting one through the Salvation Army.His phone could use upgrading as well.But also high on his list are practical technical classes.These could include sign-language, CPR certification or Spanish classes. And lastly, he would love to be able to buy a piece of lamb, asparagus, and fingerling potatoes to make what sounds like a world class dinner!

I share Jason’s story for Christmas not only because he is a patient in need, but because I know he would make wise use of any gifts he receives.I’ve witnessed the transformation he has undergone with the support he received thus far, and can only imagine what would be possible with a little bit more. Merry Christmas,

Thank you,

Patrician Johnson, RN, BSN

Nurse Navigator, Complex GI Cancers

Memorial Health Curtis & Elizabeth Anderson Cancer Institute


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