In November 2009, Ilion junior Jack Day discovered a sensitive mole on top of his head. That day began his brave journey battling melanoma, a battle that ended with his death in August 2015.
It is in his honor that CVA will hold its tenth annual Mott Marathon. “Jack’s Day” will celebrate Jack’s life and all proceeds will go to the Relay for Life in Jack’s name.
Jack’s mother Pattie Day took time away from her job as a Barringer Road Elementary School aide to visit CVA and share Jack’s story with each of Karen Anderson’s health classes.
She recounted Jack’s six-year journey from his initial diagnosis through lung, brain and bone cancer. He and his family endured surgeries and chemotherapy, moments of hope and moments of despair.
She candidly shared the details to raise student awareness of melanoma and other skin cancers—all of which are becoming more common in the United States. Although skin cancer has a genetic component, researchers point to UV light from tanning beds and the sun as the primary cause for the growing frequency.
“You have control. The sun and tanning beds are your biggest enemies. Be smart, safe, protect yourself,” Mrs. Day said.
Skin should never be darker than it is in the winter she told the students. She echoed the advice of the medical community—limit your time in the sun and always wear a high SPF sunscreen and hats, even in the winter.
She also spoke about nutrition. When Jack was diagnosed, he scrounged the Internet, looking for any ties between certain foods and cancer. Mrs. Day said there were all sorts of opinions and advice, but the one food all health professionals agree is bad is sugar. Cancer thrives on stored body sugars. Although sugar does not cause cancer, it can contribute to the rate it grows. Watch what you eat she warned.
Finally, she spoke about how Jack chose to live throughout those last years of life. He continued to play football and wrestle, timing his treatments to avoid game days. He graduated from Ilion High in 2011 and went on to pursue a degree in criminal justice at Utica College. In 2015, he walked at UC graduation with his classmates, but could not graduate because his treatments and the disease’s progression had prevented him from meeting his internship requirement. Upon learning Jack’s illness was the reason, the college faculty decided to present him with his diploma that August. Cancer took Jack the day before the planned presentation. The faculty presented the diploma to Jack’s family at the funeral home. It now hangs in the family’s home.
Throughout the battle, Jack’s friends remained true. Like Jack, they never focused on his disease; they simply treated him as Jack. They invited him to parties and events and just stopped in after a round of chemo to watch a movie. They encouraged him and his family.
Mrs. Day closed by thanking the class for listening. She hoped Jack’s story would teach people to watch for the disease, to take steps to prevent it, and spare others from enduring the sadness. In that hope, she finds her therapy.