Racing as a Cancer Survivor Pt.1

The summer series is just around the corner and there are plenty of things to talk about. Before I start telling you about the different tracks, and my first night race, I want share with you who Jonathan Sugianto is outside the racetrack. I'm 19 years old, was born and raised in California, and I'm a former Leukemia patient.

Yep, I'm a cancer survivor. The key word in this whole blog is the word "survivor."

 I'm one of the few lucky people in the world who can say, "I survived cancer." 

The nightmare started in 2003. I was visiting my family in Indonesia for Christmas. Everything was going the way it should. Until I started to catch a fever in the capital city of Jakarta. The fever got worse and worse. Soon, I was taken to the hospital where they incorrectly diagnosed me with Dengue Fever. After a few weeks, I wasn't feeling any better and when another doctor took a look at me he correctly diagnosed me with Leukemia. Heartbroken, fearful, and sadden we quickly made the 16hr flight back to LA as soon as we could. 

It was in 2004 where I became a patient at City of Hope Cancer Center in Duarte, CA. I had been crying for what seemed like a month but soon I became friends with the people there. All the nurses were friendly, my roommates were cool, and the doctors made things feel peaceful. It took awhile for me to adjust but we had found the place that would save my life. 

As though being in the hospital wasn't bad enough, school life was rough as well. The teachers had to have a meeting with each other to decide weather I should be held back or not and I was pulled out of school for a year. My physical appearance was so different my friends didn't even recognize who I was when I came to visit. 

I lost all my hair, gained weight, needed help walking up the stairs, and would wake up in the middle of the night with nightmares. Life was miserable.

The one thing that kept me going was what I do now, racing. Every Sunday, I would take my wheelchair and roll to the hospital lobby to watch NASCAR on TV. It gave me energy! This was around the time that  the Make-A-Wish foundation contacted me and asked what my wish was. With my happiness revolving around NASCAR, I wanted to meet my favorite driver...Jeff Gordon.

So that's the beginning of my story, and in my next blog I'll talk about my meeting Jeff Gordon, officially being cured and why racing and being a cancer survivor are so important in my life today.

Until next time!

-J