July 29, 2014

Medina
Intermittent clouds
61°F

Tow truck drivers help another go ‘tow’ to toe against cancer

Jared Johnson, 23, and his mother, Denise Johnson, pose in front of Jared’s tow truck at World Truck Towing and Recovery in Seville. Jared Johnson was diagnosed with colon cancer in July and others in the towing industry across the country sent him dozens of gifts in a show of support. He opened the gifts Wednesday. (NICK GLUNT / GAZETTE)

Jared Johnson, 23, and his mother, Denise Johnson, pose in front of Jared’s tow truck at World Truck Towing and Recovery in Seville. Jared Johnson was diagnosed with colon cancer in July and others in the towing industry across the country sent him dozens of gifts in a show of support. He opened the gifts Wednesday. (NICK GLUNT / GAZETTE)

A 23-year-old tow truck operator battling cancer got a lift Wednesday from upwards of 50 people in the towing industry across the country.

Jared Johnson, of Medina, was diagnosed with colon cancer in July. After surgery and months of chemotherapy, he’s almost cancer-free.

In an effort to keep Johnson’s spirits high during his treatments, fellow towing operator Jeremy Procon, of Chicopee, Mass., sent out a request last month to his contacts nationwide via Facebook and American Towman magazine.

The message: Send Johnson as much towing memorabilia as they could.

Medina resident Jared Johnson holds up a model tow truck and a T-shirt given to him by friends in the towing industry. Johnson was diagnosed with colon cancer in July and received hundreds of gifts Wednesday in a show of support. (NICK GLUNT / GAZETTE)

Medina resident Jared Johnson holds up a model tow truck and a T-shirt given to him by friends in the towing industry. Johnson was diagnosed with colon cancer in July and received hundreds of gifts Wednesday in a show of support. (NICK GLUNT / GAZETTE)

On Wednesday, Johnson received the gifts — dozens of shirts, hats, model trucks, notepads, pens, calendars and even a clock — which had been packed tightly into a 3-square-foot box and shipped to Johnson’s workplace, World Truck Towing and Recovery, in Seville.

Johnson thanked his friends in the towing industry for all their encouragement.

“To have the outpouring of support has just been great,” Johnson said.

He said he’s tried to stay positive through his treatments and has for the most part succeeded.

“The second I let it get to me, I’m done,” he said. “My oncologist told me right from beginning that the people who go in fighting are the ones who make it.”

When Johnson was diagnosed, he had been experiencing pains in his side for some time. Doctors said he had a tumor “the size of a Nerf football,” and that it had been growing for 2½ years before he’d experienced any symptoms.

By the time he’d caught it, though, the cancer had spread to his liver and abdomen. Surgeries and chemotherapy have left only small amounts in his abdomen, he said.

His mother, Denise Johnson, grew emotional as her son opened up the package.

“This is amazing,” said his mother, who also works for World Truck Towing. “We appreciate everything these people have done.”

She said it’s been hard to watch her son go through chemotherapy, but has been amazed by how upbeat he’s been.

“He’s stayed so positive through this,” she said. “I don’t think I could be that strong.”

Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or nglunt@medina-gazette.com.

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Every year, 142,000 people are diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer, and the cancer leads to more than 52,000 deaths annually. Most people who get colorectal cancers are 50 or older.

Colorectal cancers may have no signs or symptoms. If there are symptoms, they include a change in bowel habits, blood in stool, diarrhea or constipation, frequent abdominal pains, unexplained weight loss and tiredness.

Prevention methods include not smoking, increasing physical activity, maintaining a healthy body weight, reducing red meat ingestion and moderating alcohol use.

Source: Fight Colorectal Cancer, Alexandria, Va.