Ten years ago, Jake Prigoff of Roslyn, New York, was a 14-year-old who loved music. Singing was his passion, but one day his voice weakened and his stamina fell. What his doctor thought at first was pneumonia turned out to be stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“It’s almost like a lightning bolt strikes you because your body just goes numb,” he recalled in an interview with CBS News.
So, two weeks before his 15th birthday, treatment began. He underwent six 21-day cycles of chemotherapy and later on 60 days of radiation therapy.
It was a harrowing journey for a teenager to go through. Despite being surrounded by a support system of family, friends, and doctors, he — like others going through such life-threatening conditions — still had feelings of isolation.
“Imagine being the puffy-cheeked bald kid, walking around knowing that everybody is looking at you because you have cancer,” he said. “It’s really lonely.”
Still, he wouldn’t let anything get in the way of overcoming this obstacle. After months of treatment, the cancer became untraceable.
As he began to get better and get another chance at life, he also began to think about his future and what his next step in life would be. He thought of a significant moment during therapy when his oncologist said he liked treating Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients.
“He said ‘We can fix you!’ Those are the words you want to hear and my oncologist gave them to me—and so from day one I was confident that I would be okay.”
Prigoff is now 25 years old and a fourth year medical student at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City where he is studying to become a surgical oncologist.
“I recognized that for the rest of my life I’m going to forever be passionate about fighting cancer so if I can do that for a living every single day I go into work I’m going to be excited,” he said.
Ten years cancer-free and he is making the most of the time he is given. He has gone back to one of his life’s loves: singing. He is part of the a capella group Blackout, which has performed for audiences ranging from parties to the Super Bowl.
He also does volunteer work with Cycle for Survival, a national movement aimed at raising funds and awareness to beat rare cancers with their indoor team cycling events.
“Cancer has gotten where I am today,” Prigoff said. “And it’s going to get me where I go in the future.”
Learn more about Jake Prigoff by watching the video from Memorial Sloan Kettering below:
[Featured image: Memorial Sloan Kettering/YouTube]