Elburn Lions fundraiser supports ‘Jason’s Journey’

By on September 20, 2012

Jason’s Journey Benefit
Saturday, Sept. 22
1 to 11 p.m.
Elburn Lion’s Park
500 Filmore St., Elburn
$10 admission ticket includes
dinner and entertainment
Bags tournament, live entertainment
and children’s activities
Silent and live auctions and raffles
Cash bar
Pig roast from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
For more information,
visit the website at
jasonsjourney.org

by Susan O’Neill
ELBURN—Jason Cornell is a fighter.

Some people, like Jason’s wife and his best friends, would say he’s stubborn, but it seems to have served him well. Multiple Sclerosis and cancer are formidable foes, and he needs all the fight he can muster.

Jason and his family grew up in Elburn. According to his mom, Deb Cornell, he played baseball as a boy, earning the name “Slugger.” He participated in wrestling through the Kaneland Knight’s Kids’ Club, and was on the football team at Kaneland High School. He graduated from Kaneland in 1999.

He was 22 years old and working on a five-year apprenticeship with the Illinois Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) when he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Although the apprenticeship was not an easy task, Jason said he tried not to let his disease get him down. He acknowledged that there were some tough times, but he successfully completed the apprenticeship and began his career as a union electrician.

He met and married Jaclyn almost six years ago, and the two began a family soon after. They have three boys, Noah, 4, Caleb, 3, and Liam, who is 10 months old.

Due to his MS, Jason was getting MRI scans every six months. Five years ago, his doctors found a brain tumor they diagnosed as benign.

Jason said that Noah was born between the time of his biopsy and the surgery to remove his tumor. Noah is currently in his second year of pre-school.

According to Jason, Caleb is a learner, absorbing everything around him. Liam, just beginning to move around, keeps his parents on their toes.

When Jason went in for his scan in March of this year, the tumor from five years ago had returned. He underwent surgery to remove it, but this time the tumor was malignant. The doctors told him it was a Glioblastoma Multiforme, a powerful, fast-acting and cancerous tumor.

Jason in April began a six-week round of chemotherapy and radiation as soon as he recovered from the surgery. He is about to begin his third round of chemo, and will continue with additional cycles for the next year.

“Without the scans, we wouldn’t have known,” Jason said.

“If he didn’t have MS, they wouldn’t have found the tumor so early,” Jaclyn said.
These statements are reflective of how Jason and Jaclyn are handling the situation. If there is a silver lining, they will find it.

“Attitude is so much of it,” Jaclyn said. “You have to live your life and just do your best every day. He doesn’t sit and dwell on it. I’m really proud of how he’s handling things, especially for his age.”

Jason, who turned 32 in February, said that he just keeps picking himself up every day.

“You never know how long you have. You just take it day to day,” he said.

Jason has a lot of family and friends in the area. His graduating class was fairly small, and he is still friends with many of his classmates.

“There’s about 15 or 20 people who see each other regularly,” former classmate Eric Rogers said.

Eric and Jason have been friends since they were in second or third grade.

“He has always been there for people,” Eric said. “He’s always been someone you could count on and go to for anything.”

Eric’s wife Kelli met Jaclyn when they were students at NIU. Jaclyn and Jason played matchmaker with Eric and Kelli, and the two couples share a close friendship.

Eric has taken Jason to some of his treatments at Rush Presbyterian St. Luke’s Hospital in Chicago, and Kelli has been a big source of support for Jaclyn.

Eric said that Jason has been unable to work since his surgery in March and subsequent chemo treatments. Eric and Kelli and a couple of their friends came up with the idea of a fundraiser to help out with Jason’s medical expenses and his family’s everyday expenses.

“We wanted to take some of the burden and stress off of them,” Eric said. “It really was a no-brainer.”

The Elburn Lions Club is partnering with them on the fundraiser, set for Saturday, Sept. 22, at Lions Park. Jason’s parents, Deb and Brad Cornell, are long-time Lions Club members. Kelli is the chairperson for what they have named “Jason’s Journey.”

Kelli and Jaclyn approached Jason awhile ago about sharing his story on Facebook. Although at first he wasn’t sure that he wanted to, he ended up agreeing to it. The website includes Jason’s story, a place for him to provide updates and for people to leave messages, as well as to donate.

Jason said he was amazed by the number of people who responded, as well as the positive messages they sent him.

“It’s really humbling to know how much support there is out there for you,” he said. “There are people on there I couldn’t even tell you who they are, as well as family and friends.”

Jaclyn is also amazed by how much people have done for them. Some have sent cards and notes, others have donated their time to babysit with the children, run errands or bring them meals.

She said that since Jason has been diagnosed, people have been dropping things off about twice a week. From toilet paper and paper towels to meals, Jaclyn said that people have no idea how much these things have meant to them both.

“The little things mean so much,” she said. “They’ve lightened the load of our everyday life, and we can spend more quality time with each other, rather than having to spend our time running errands. I hope that, at some point, I can do the same for them.”

The outpouring of support has meant a lot to his mom and dad, as well.

“It is quite overwhelming,” Deb Cornell said. “We are most grateful and appreciative.”

“Jason has such a big heart,” she said. “He has always put others before himself. My husband and I look up to him. He never complains. He is the greatest person to be able to go through all of this and end up with a smile on his face.”

Although the outcome for Jason is far from certain, he continues to fight. Balancing the treatment for his MS with the chemo treatment for his cancer has proven a challenge, but he maintains a positive outlook.

“His response is always, ‘What’s the plan? What do we do next?’” Jaclyn said.

For more information about the Elburn Lions fundraiser, visit the website at jasonsjourney.org.

About Susan ONeill

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