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The Wrestler

by Renee Gurley

Inspiration image

Jon Veitch

Jon Veitch ended his freshman wrestling season with a dismal record of no wins; he had tasted defeat and refused to take another bite.

During the summer of 1979, Jon spent every moment training and studying every aspect of the sport. He says, “It was funny, but the more I learned, the more I saw the key to wrestling was not resisting the opponent, but to use the opponent’s own force to bring them to the mat.”

With this knowledge in hand, Jon showed them all. The next three wrestling seasons, Jon went virtually undefeated, and he was invited to be part of U.S. Wrestling Team.

Jon’s future was bright. But at 22, a new opponent introduced itself. The opponent’s name? Brain Cancer. Astrocytoma to be exact, a cancer that often carries with it the nickname Terminal. Jon was left on the mat facing his mortality, an interesting face to look into when you are only 22. What did he do?

“Twenty-four years ago, I was told my condition had a name, and that name was Terminal. Today, I scratch my head and wonder what they meant by that word."

He answers, “I focused on what I had learned. Not to resist it, but trust that the opponent’s force would bring it to the mat.” Jon then successfully completed his first craniotomy followed by state-of-the art radiation therapy.

His focus now turned to starting a family, and his first daughter was born in 2000. “I cannot tell you what this meant to me with the walk that I had been given,” he says with tears in his eyes. When his daughter was 18 months old, the opponent appeared again. It had changed its name from Astrocytoma to Stage III Oligodendroglioma. “I was sitting alone in my hospital room, and this was the most scared I had ever been of my cancer,” Jon says. “I picked up a Bible that was sitting on a table, and at a loss, I opened to see what the Good Book said. The book opened to the 23rd Psalm, which states ‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: For thou art with me.’ I knew at that moment that I was not alone in this battle, and if I just turned my fear over, and focused on my mantra about letting the opponent’s force defeat itself, I was going to be okay.”

Again, Jon was given reprieve with another brain surgery followed by proton therapy.

Ten years and five brain surgeries later, Jon is still going strong. He draws; he works; he raises his daughter; he loves; he laughs; he cries; he believes. While he does this, research continues to produce new treatments.

“Twenty-four years ago, I was told my condition had a name, and that name was Terminal. Today, I scratch my head and wonder what they meant by that word. Under the shadow of terminal, I have lived such a wonderfully rich life.”

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Jon Veitch is a 24-year brain cancer survivor. He lives in Riverside, CA, and works as a hairdresser. For more about Jon, visit www.jonveitch.com.

This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, November/December 2011.