Living Life

By Jack Coates

In May 2001, I was diagnosed with medullablastoma. I was 19 years old and had just finished my freshman year at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island.

Medullablastoma is a cancer that affects the brain and the spine. I had three surgeries, 52 weeks of chemo, and six weeks of radiation. I spent a year and two months in the hospital and went from 217 pounds to 97. I was scared. I was asking God: “Why?  Why did it have to happen to me?” It was shocking. Many things went through my mind.

Jack and his sister, Kelly

Jack and his sister, Kelly

While I was sick, my family helped in my recovery. My mom fed me and took me to appointments; my dad lifted my spirits; and my older brother, Steven, visited and chipped in. When I moved home from the hospital, I shared a room with my sister, Kelly, who always pushed me to get better.

After two years of treatment, I went into remission. My family began doing the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk. As I gained strength, I joined them.

Then, in 2011, I was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, which means the bone marrow does not make enough healthy blood cells. In February 2012, I had a bone marrow transplant.

A week or two before my transplant, they started their search for a donor. I’m not always a lucky guy, but within a few days I found out that they found a donor – my sister. Some people have to wait years to find a donor; I found one in a week.

In 2011, Kelly completed her first Boston Marathon. She wore a ribbon on her jersey with my name on it. She’ll run again this year as part of the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team.

Jack and his fiancee, Mary

Jack and his fiancée, Mary

On March 7, I had my yearly MRI. Everything was clear, and I am now 14 years in remission. Currently, I am doing physical therapy and occupational therapy at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital to get stronger.

I’m extremely lucky. If it were not for Kelly, I wouldn’t be here right now. I don’t think there is anything I could do to thank my sister enough for saving my life, except to start living life. Before my transplant, I was working at the West Suburban YMCA in Newton. Recently, I went back for the first time to visit, and I will be going back to work within the next few weeks. I have a fiancée, Mary. We got engaged the Christmas Eve before my transplant. Turns out, luck may be on my side.

Read more about Jack: Survivors of pediatric brain tumors share a special bond 

Comments Sort By Newest

One thought on “Living Life

Comments are closed.

Make An Appointment

For adults: 877-960-1562

Quick access: Appointments as soon as the next day for new adult patients

For children: 888-733-4662

All content in these blogs is provided by independent writers and does not represent the opinions or advice of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute or its partners.

Latest Tweets

Dana-Farber @danafarber
RT @BCRFcure: Today on #MLKDay, BCRF researcher Dr. Nikhil Wagle from @DanaFarber & breast cancer advocates are taking over our Instagram a…
Dana-Farber @danafarber
RT @lisa_scherber: Adolescent Girls Weekend has official begun! 27 Jimmy Fund teens will experience a weekend filled with beautiful memorie…
Dana-Farber @danafarber
RT @ChrisClea: Dr. Ann Partridge @YoungStrongDFCI leads @DanaFarber's programs for cancer survivors. More Survive Cancer, These Doctors Try…

Republish our posts on your blog

Interested in sharing one of our stories on your blog? Feel free to republish this content! We just ask that you credit Dana-Farber, link to the original article, and refrain from making edits that change the original context. Questions? Email the editors at