Dr. Jake is a Stage 4 Lymphoma survivor, a doctor, and a member of our Medical Review Board. He's a traveler, researcher, foodie, and fierce advocate for the cancer community.
What was your cancer diagnosis and how was it discovered?
Hodgkin's Disease Stage 4B. I was 15 years old and noticed my exercise endurance and singing voice started to diminish. This was combined with significant weight loss, lethargy, and constantly feeling ill. Eventually, I got a chest X-ray that showed a large amount of disease. I went immediately from the x-ray to a CT scan and was admitted that night. Although my diagnosis and treatment were hard on me, and losing my hair was difficult as a teenager, I was inspired by my medical staff and went on to become an oncologist and work with patients at the very hospital I was treated at.
What is the biggest piece of advice you have for newly diagnosed patients?
Make friends with the nurses. They are literal and metaphoric life savers. I used to bring cookies every day for them as a thank you and they really loved it. Take advantage of friends and family who want to help. Although I would never wish it on anyone, childhood cancer was a huge lesson for me in just how strong my community is and how much they support me. I have never felt as loved in my life as when I was going through treatment and kids in my class would visit me in the hospital, send me cards, etc.
What is the most important thing you learned from your cancer experience?
That building a support system is so important. When people tell you they want to help - let them. It makes them feel good.
What was the most difficult aspect of organizing your care/community?
I was in high school and hundreds of classmates/families/friends/neighbors reached out to lend a hand. For the first 2 weeks, I was the most popular person in school. After that is when the loneliness starts to kick in and you need to rely on that community. If lots of people offer to help at first, don't be afraid defer the help. "I'm all set right now, but can I call you in 2 weeks to come hang out and keep me company for an afternoon?
What are three words you would use to describe your cancer experience?
fear, family, grateful
Are there products, services, experiences or physicians that you couldn't be without?
I'd get a weekly massage - it was really some time to just relax and let go of stress. I also did acupuncture which I felt helped with my nausea.
Interested in connecting with Dr. Jake?
Follow Dr. Jake on Instagram @jprigoff or send him a message at firstname.lastname@example.org! You can also learn more about Dr. Jake as a member of our Medical Review Board.
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