Jon’s Story: Turning the Tide in the Fight Against Cancer

zbThe year 2013 is one that Jonathan Seely and his family will never forget. In October, Jonathan was diagnosed with throat cancer. Soon after his diagnosis, he visited Dana-Farber Cancer Institute for a second opinion on treatment options. His care team at Dana-Farber recommended eight weeks of treatment, including five days of radiation and one day of chemotherapy each week. To Jonathan, the treatment plan seemed daunting, but he was determined to win his fight against cancer.

Every day for the next eight weeks, Jonathan, his wife, Cyndie, and his daughter, Ana, who flew out from California, attended his appointments at Dana-Farber. Despite his intense schedule, Jonathan’s spirits remained high and he would tell jokes while waiting for his treatment to start. Carrying on with a sense of humor was incredibly important to him, especially when the cancer not only affected Jonathan, but also his family.

On his way in or out of the Institute, Jonathan always made a point to stop by the Zebrafish Display and read the names and messages listed on the illuminated fish. Some of the messages placed there by donors were thank-you’s to caregivers, others were in tribute to friends and family members, and some were purely messages of hope for current and future patients.

Located in the Charles A. Dana Building of Dana-Farber, the Zebrafish Display is a unique way to support the fight against cancer. The display’s school of individually crafted fish, lit to simulate the ocean tide, symbolizes the importance of zebrafish to the future of cancer research and treatment. Zebrafish share many of the same genes as humans, making them a vital part in developing innovative treatments and therapies. Each six-inch zebrafish can be inscribed, and a three-line message appears on screen when your fish is touched.

“The messages reminded me I was not alone and that I was in the best hands,” said Jonathan.

After Jonathan had completed treatment, he one day found himself reading a Dana-Farber publication that happened to mention the Zebrafish Display. Feeling like he wanted to give back after the excellent care he received, and knowing that the display was a source of inspiration and hope, he decided to name a zebrafish in honor of the Dana-Farber caregivers who helped him conquer cancer.

“Dana-Farber is a terrific organization because you feel like you are part of a team. They become your family,” said Jonathan. “Naming a fish in the Zebrafish Display was a great way for me to give back to the people who gave me so much. I hope that when people walk by and see it, it makes them smile.”

Jonathan rode in the 2016 Pan-Mass Challenge to raise money for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

It has been three years since Jonathan received his diagnosis and while he still has a few lingering effects of treatment, he is feeling great and is happy to be able to give back. He even rode in the Pan-Mass Challenge for the first time this year with his brother, Adam, which benefits Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

“I am going to continue to do what I can to help get the word out about the wonderful things they do at Dana-Farber,” said Jonathan. “I hope others hear that message and do what they can to spread the word too. Naming a zebrafish is a great way to start.”

Please help Dana-Farber develop the next wave of breakthroughs by naming a zebrafish in the Zebrafish Display.  Your zebrafish includes a personal inscription along with an on-screen message that will appear when your zebrafish is touched.  Name your zebrafish in honor or tribute to someone special (such as a caregiver for National Family Caregivers Month) while also providing a personalized message of hope.