On National Cancer Survivor’s Day in 2018, Jay McDaniel wrote a letter of thanks to the Pelotonia community
. Jay detailed his story and the research that saved his life in this moving essay that serves as a testament to the power of the Pelotonia movement.
Jay, at age 21, lost his father to colon cancer. The disease also took his grandfather, uncle, and two aunts. At the age of 30, Jay began getting colonoscopies every 5 years. In 2013, he was 4 years past his last colonoscopy when he began feeling stomach pains. It turned out to be the very thing he had been hoping to prevent all those years: colon cancer.
Jay’s treatment included an extensive surgery that took a large portion of his colon, followed by chemotherapy (FOLFOX and FOLFIR). The treatment options yielded poor results for Jay and unfortunately, the return of his cancer only 3 years later.
“In 2016, my cancer came back really strong. It had metastasized back into my abdomen, into my spleen, into my adrenal gland. It was pretty bad. At that point, the tumor was really big in my abdomen,” Jay says.
The surgeons ended up taking out the tumor, his adrenal gland, spleen, and four lymph nodes. But that wouldn’t be enough to keep the cancer away. It was at this point that he found out about a new clinical trial, a type of immunotherapy that was receiving funding from Pelotonia. It was thanks to genetic counseling that he found out about this opportunity.
Jay started the trial and remembers the stark difference between this treatment and his chemotherapy. Side effects from his chemo included fatigue, depression, loss of appetite and sensitivity to cold. He had to halt many of his daily activities and work. With immunotherapy, he didn’t have any side effects. He continued to run, swim, and live his typical day-to-day life.
The best part, though, was that this treatment was actually working. The immunotherapy rid his body of any underlying cancer cells that were there at the time of his treatment and it continues to work even after the treatment’s completion.
Today, Jay is cancer free. He goes in for scans every six months and as of his last one, he still has a clean bill of health.
“I've gotten to watch two of my daughters graduate from Ohio State and my youngest is a senior at Ohio State, so I'm looking forward to watching her graduate as well,” Jay says. “The clinical trials, the case studies, Pelotonia, the staff at the James... I can't say enough. Thank you doesn't seem like enough, so I try to pay it forward.”
Jay has given back through the years in a number of different ways, including volunteering as a concierge at The James, where he was able to listen to other people's stories. He also raises awareness about the importance of clinical trials and funding cancer research.
“I think with these clinical trials, with Pelotonia, with these funds that are available to help people today, I think it's worth shouting from the rooftops however anyone will listen that this could possibly save your life.”