Iraq War Veteran, Police Officer Pedals His Way Through Cancer Treatment

As a way to celebrate being one year cancer-free, Worcester, Mass. Police officer and Iraq War veteran Jonathan “J.D.” Daige rode the 2015 Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC) to raise money for cancer research. The 192-mile ride was no small feat, as he rode with only two thirds of his right lung and 90 percent of his left.

After two rounds of chemotherapy, radiation, and multiple surgeries, J.D. completed the 192-mile Pan-Mass Challenge in 2015.

“I have always been physically active in all parts of my life,” says Daige, who served two, 10-month deployments in Iraq with the Army Reserves. “Even during treatment, I had to keep doing something, so I turned to cycling and the PMC.”

Daige, 32, was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2012 at the age of 29. The diagnosis came after he visited the doctor for groin pain, which he thought was a hernia. He had surgery to remove the cancer, but six months later, doctors found the disease had spread (or metastasized) to his chest, brain, and lungs. The metastases meant Daige would undergo further treatment.

When doctors wanted to delay treating the metastasized cancer, Daige came to Dana-Farber for a second opinion. His team started chemotherapy right away.

“I was so impressed with how quickly they started treatment. The care is phenomenal,” Daige says.

radio-telethon, larry lucchino
J.D. meets with two-time cancer survivor and former Red Sox President and CEO Larry Lucchino. The two met at the 2015 WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio Telethon, where they were both guests. (Photo credit: WEEI)

On Daige’s first day of chemo, case workers brought a stationary bicycle to his room so Daige could stay active and keep his legs moving, even during treatment. He began to ride throughout his three-year treatment at Dana-Farber, which included two rounds of chemotherapy, two rounds of radiation, and several surgeries to his brain, lungs and other parts of his body. Despite the rigorous treatment, Daige managed to log 1,000 miles on his bike before the 2015 PMC. Even when he was hooked up to an IV to receive chemotherapy, he was always pedaling.

JD in uniform with the Worcester (Mass.) Police Department.
J.D. in uniform with the Worcester (Mass.) Police Department.

“I know when I work out or get the blood flowing I actually feel better, happier,” Daige says.

Cycling isn’t the only way Daige stays active; he also spends his time traveling, surfing, playing hockey, rock climbing, golfing, and doing CrossFit. His team at Dana-Farber says his physical activity during treatment suited him well, and he actually finished his treatments in better shape than he was when he started.

Despite all the chemotherapy treatments and surgeries Daige has been through, he “feels great” and is optimistic for the future.

“Every time I visited the doctor, it was more bad news, but I knew there was always going to be a light at the end of the tunnel,” says Daige, who plans to tackle the PMC again next year.

Listen to an interview with JD from the 2015 WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon.