Saturday, October 13, 2018

One man's recipe for 'Winning at Life'


DAD AND KISENYA:  (I copied this picture from the Red
Deer Advocate website. I'd give the photographer credit but
there was none.)
Four years ago, the following paragraph appeared in the Red Deer, Alberta, newspaper, The Advocate

"He has undergone tongue reconstruction using arm and leg muscles, chemotherapy and radiation treatment. He had a second surgery to remove his tongue, and a reconstruction again using his own muscles. His lower jaw was removed. He has had to learn to walk again because a bone from his lower leg was used to reconstruct his jaw."

Whooaaaa!

Medical staff took some man's shin bone and put it where his jaw used to be. They rebuilt his tongue with muscles from who knows where.

The things doctors do. Me, I have a hard time moving words around a page...

Elsewhere in the story, and why I'm even talking about it,  is the fact that "he"; namely, Jason Kom-Tong, a 35-year-old husband to Bambi, 32, and father to Zak and Kisenya, had stage four cancer of the tongue and had only been given a few months to live. 

Cancer of the tongue. A few  months to live. For the love of God...

Although Jason had started some experimental anti-cancer therapy in Vancouver, the former oil-field business-minded Albertan was unable to work or talk; he was getting nourishment through a tube that went directly into his stomach.

Here's the thing:  I know this Jason guy.  

And his story is worth nothing short of yelling to the world about. Never mind for a moment that I say that about everybody.  This story's different. 

Here's why.

The day last year that I first met Jason, after  he told me he had to eat through a tube, I dumbly asked, "what's that like?" And  you know what he did?  He joked! "It's f'n awesome," he said. This was my kind of guy!  

Turns out the Kom-Tongs moved here from Red Deer in 2017. Bambi found a fast-track dental hygienist program here that she could complete quickly so she’d be able to support the family. Jason continued the treatments in Vancouver; and by the time we met, it seemed that the treatment was helping.

He was well beyond the few weeks he’d been given three years earlier.

Last time I heard from him was Halloween, 2017

Until this week. The following text showed up on my phone: “Hello Peter. It’s been a while.

“The reason I thought of contacting you is, I officially beat cancer and want to give back.

 “I was hoping to get some news coverage but every time I emailed CTV they don’t respond back.  Which I can see why because my email sounds like I’m a crazy person.”

Then I read the text again. “I’m giving away cases containing many silver coins.”

In their celebration of his new lease on life, Jason and his family have taken to filling little pirate chests with real silver coins and holding impromptu treasure hunts. Some in public places like a park in Niagara Falls; and some in less public places, like the dental hygiene school Bambi’s attending.
X MARKS THE SPOT: ish. This is the letter the Kom-Tongs
give to the treasure hunters

They’ve put a whole lot of work into it. (See the photo of that letter that they hand out? These people are detailed!)  The next one’s somewhere in Toronto October 17.

Then….. I thought, “Well Jason. You’re giving boxes of money away to complete strangers.  Some might say that’s a bit odd.”

If I, on the other hand, just got pulled back from the edge of hell the way Jason just was, I’d be like Scrooge on Christmas morning after the big conversion — dancing in the streets and giving stuff away too.

Turn out, Jason is more like Scrooge than I knew. He says his health scare made him reengineer his priorities. Before this, he told me, “I rarely took my family anywhere. Work and money were all the mattered. I was blinded by my career.”

But now?

“Life should be enjoyed.

“I just want to rock the dad thing and write my book and tell my story. The silver [treasures] may entice people go out with their families to view some of our beautiful nation; or maybe will sway them just a bit into helping out a student or someone in need.”

See why I like this guy?

Finally, what do you suppose a really handsome ambitious chap who has had his face and life ripped apart by tongue cancer call his life story?  “Winning at Life,” of course.

I sure hope he gets the attention he deserves.     

2 comments:

  1. Im so glad you beat the cancer bro. Cant wait to see you and your family back home in Alberta again.

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  2. I put on my former editor hat for a minute and said "would I have green-lit that story based on Jason's email?" and the answer was "no". The concept is just the kind of idiosyncratic thing I love, but I'd wonder if i was being phished by a con artist. Unscrupulous others have ruined genuine, charming, lovely adventures like those proposed by the Kom-Tongs. I wish them well.

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