Despite a cancer diagnosis that caused him to miss much of his sophomore year, Jonathan Larson will graduate on time this year from Beecher High School with a 4.2 grade point average.
Larson was diagnosed with multifocal myxopapillary ependymoma in 2010 after suffering from severe back pain. During surgery to remove tumors along his spinal cord and brain that were causing the pain, doctors at University of Chicago found cancer.
“It wasn’t until I woke up from the surgery that I learned the news. There was a brief moment of shock, despair and desperation,” he said.
“The moment passed in a second and instead, a force of determination, strength and a 'never give up' attitude set it. It wasn’t going to win. I was.”
Larson traveled to Bloomington to receive two months of radiation. “The process took anywhere from two to three hours. Every other day would switch off between spine and brain.”
“On the days my brain was radiated, I would often smell a strong smell of bleach and see flashing lights,” he said.
“My teachers at Beecher High School were a big part of keeping my grades up and graduating on time. They let me come in early and stay late and I even worked with one teacher a few weeks into the summer,” he added.
A member of the National Honor Society and a Student Council representative throughout high school, Larson will attend Loyola University Chicago this fall to study political science.
“I would like to study law and receive my license to practice. My ultimate goal is to be involved with politics. I love history, I find court cases fascinating, and I read the newspaper every day,” he said.
Although not yet considered officially in remission, Larson hopes his experience with cancer will provide him with valuable tools for the future. “I do believe that the determination that has come out of this will be a strong and useful trait in court and on the campaign trail,” he said.
“I also learned the benefits of charity and community. Most of all I learned how to be determined and how to never give up, even in the face of failure.”
The son of Bill Larson and Deborah Sitko-Larson, of Beecher, Larson credits his mother for helping him through his trials.
“If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t be here today. She has been the one going through everything with me and the one ensuring that my medical care is the best there is,” he said.