One would think this post would get easier to write as the years pass, but that is not the case. I find myself staring at a blank computer screen trying to put into words the thoughts and feelings in my head when it comes to today. On this day three years ago, we lost Jacob Madonia after his 10-year battle with cancer. His loss has forever changed many of us. Each year that passes I want to pay a special tribute to his life and continue to pay it forward in a way in which he would have wanted.
When trying to configure this post, I started to think of the number three. Knowing how much Jake liked numbers, I thought I would do some research on the significance of three. This number is associated with the Christian Trinity. It means that you receive protection, guidance, and help from divine sources. When you see the number three, it means your angels are protecting you and giving you support and strength. Learning this brought me some sense of security and relief.
Reflecting on where we are now in comparison to where we were last year on this day can be looked at in a couple of ways. We have all experienced loss and have been impacted by COVID-19 in one way or another. We are all grieving life the way “it used to be.” As we grieve the loss of life or the way things used to be, it can be difficult to find joy. Jake taught me how to be grateful even during hard times. I continue to find joy and gratitude for so much in my life. I am grateful for my daughter, my dog, my health, my home, my job, my family, and my friends. Lastly, I am grateful for all the memories and lessons Jake taught me (and continues to teach me) as they continue to impact and shape who I am as a person and how I raise our daughter.
I am currently enrolled in a graduate program to become a school district leader (or administrator). This journey and course work has reiterated the importance of forming and maintaining relationships and exhibiting mental hardiness. These were both attributes Jake had instilled in himself. He was able to build relationships easily as a student, athlete, patient, nurse, and manager, and he took pride in doing so. He loved building a team and working together to achieve a goal. Anyone that was a part of one of his teams knows Jake always had high expectations because he always wanted those around him to be the best version of themselves. That brings me to mental hardiness. When I came across this term in one of my texts, I didn’t immediately know what it meant but once I read the definition, it was clear. Hardiness is a personality style that helps a person cope, withstand, and actively engage in transformational coping when faced with stressful events. Using transformational coping allows the person to reframe a stressful situation and perceive it as an opportunity rather than a threat. Jake exhibited this trait throughout every difficult situation he was placed in. When presented with each bad scan or bad news from a surgeon, Jake was also able to view it in a positive and productive perspective down to the last breath he took.
One of the last conversations I had with Jake embodied his strong-willed personality. He gave me a list of things he wanted ME to accomplish. On that list included the following: get back into dancing, go back to school for administration, raise our daughter to be a good human, and start and maintain the foundation to give back to patients and research for Sarcoma. I am happy to report I am working hard on my list. I am teaching recreational dance classes and will be graduating in August with my school district leader advanced certification. Nalina Rose is growing every day and enjoys her family, friends, dance, and school. She is excited about going to kindergarten and reminds me that her dad will be watching her from heaven while at school so she needs to “listen and do.” And last but certainly not least...
In 2019, The Lotus Flower Giving Society - the foundation we created in Jake’s memory - was given its official nonprofit status, and last year (right before our world changed), we rolled out a patient support grant program. (You can learn more here: lotusflowergivingsociety.org/grantapplication.) I am so proud to say that this week, we funded our first patient -a young man with a cancer story similar to Jake’s - to help cover travel and other expenses associated with his stay in Buffalo while he’s receiving treatment at Roswell Park.
Finally, we will continue to raise funds to directly support sarcoma research at Roswell Park - the other half of our mission. The primary way we do this is through the Ride for Roswell - an event Jake loved. Please consider joining “Team Madonia” and riding with us or making a donation. No gift is too small.
Thank you to all who took the time to read this on this special day. Thank you to my friends and family for their continued support in helping me move through this loss and pay it forward to those who are in need and suffering from the same disease as Jake. Lastly, thank you to those who donate to my ride. Team Madonia always delivers.
Out of Darkness Comes Light,
President, Lotus Flower Giving Society