I beat it!!! The big “C”, and although I can’t technically be called a “survivor” until year 5, I’ve finally been able to re-assemble my life into some degree of “normalcy”, which for me is really saying something. That year of intense chemotherapy, and complications due to surgery to remove a lemon sized tumor from my abdomen left me scared and worried that I would either be permanently damaged, or worse, not see my kids grow up. It’s a very humbling experience. But it honestly felt like the culmination of all my ideas on bringing people together, and creating meaningful and lasting neighborhoods, was playing out when I was struck with cancer. Dear friends filled up my refrigerator, checked in on me, sat quietly and watched movies with me, and when all of those bills piled up at the end of treatment, my village rallied around me to “Build a Better Jason”. I couldn’t even begin to describe how moving and poignant that effort was.
As of a few weeks ago, my fundraising account was officially closed after we were able to pay off a mountain of bills, and have a little set aside to continue paying down my Cobra payments, which are high, but fortunately manageable thanks to my community. That fundraising effort allowed me the freedom to actually continue re-building my life and continue telling the story that I started a few years ago when I decided to move with my family to Oak Cliff and begin taking part in working to make life a little better in any way I could contribute.
Today, I’m at the airport heading off to another city to brag about the community I love, and hopefully inspire others to roll up their sleeves and try to improve things for their friends, families, and community. I’ve learned SO much through these past few years, have met some of the most inspirational people, and have been humbled on a daily basis. Last month, I signed with an amazing speaking agency to continue presenting, and within the past week, signed a contract with a literary agency to complete my first book. It’s a dream that I never imagined I’d realize, so if I have a starstruck look in my eyes when you see me, just know it’s because I’m pinching myself on a daily basis.
I have a ton of “Thank You” cards to write, so please know that I do plan on touching base with you all individually. You’ve all stood beside me when I took on some pretty outrageous, or even hare-brained ideas, including fighting to return streetcars after being dormant for half a century, painting bike lanes, reviving old buildings, and even running for US Congress. Accidentally starting an international movement in urban planning with the Better Block project has been the culimination of those efforts, and none of that would have been possible without an amazing community that helped me pull these things together. I get the most amazing letters from people from as far away as Melbourne, Australia, to Tehran, Iran who are all assembling and working together to make better neighborhoods, all based on the ideas, people, and energy of Oak Cliff. That blows my mind.
Alright, I’m getting sappy, but just know that you’ve forever changed me in the best ways possible, and when I was at my worst, you picked me up and kept me in your thoughts and for that I’m forever grateful.