Mendelsohn family – From left, 16-year-old twins Ryan and Lauren; Jason; Ronni; and Adam, 10, holding bichon frise Dez. When Jason was diagnosed with Stage IV oral cancer in 2014, he asked himself “How could I leave Ronni and our kids with so much more in life to experience?”
Have you heard of HPV-related oral cancer?
Jason Mendelsohn hadn’t heard of it until he diagnosed with Stage IV human papillomavirus-related tonsil cancer. Now he is passionate about educating parents about the importance of the HPV vaccine for boys and girls, as well as promoting oral cancer screenings for adults.
Oregon Jewish Life magazine shared his journey in their January 2016 issue with the story “After tonsil cancer, dad pushes HPV vaccines for all teens” (orjewishlife.com/after-tonsil-cancer-dad-pushes-hpv-vaccines-for-all-teens). In that article, he shared his fears when he was diagnosed with HPV-related tonsil cancer that had spread to several lymph nodes in his neck. He asked himself “How could I not be there to give Ronni and our kids advice, just as my father does for us today?” Not wanting future generations of fathers to experience that panic drove Jason to share his story.
He wanted to raise awareness about this relatively unknown form of cancer and spread the word that it can be prevented.
Now he’s found new ways to promote HPV vaccination.
“Even with all the inspiration and encouragement, one person can only do so much,” he told the Heritage Florida Jewish News for a November 2017 story. “You’d have to be superhuman to keep up. He remembered his friends and doctors who called him Superman during his treatments, and he adopted the name SupermanHPV.”
Jason launched the website SupermanHPV.com to help those searching for information.
“I chose the name SupermanHPV as I knew it would draw attention to the diagnosis, and help me spread the word about HPV-related oral cancer,” according to his blog. “I wanted people to understand that three out of four adults by the time they’re 30 have HPV, 62% of freshman in college.”
SupermanHPV.com launched the first week of September 2017, and immediately drew national attention. After visiting the website, Maggie Fox, senior writer at NBC, wrote an article about Jason and this “silent epidemic.” The article – nbcnews.com/health/health-news/silent-epidemic-cancer-spreading-among-men-n811466 – has been read by more than 500,000 people. Shortly after the article ran, he was asked to speak on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt.
On his website, Jason tells his story, writes blogs and shares other people’s testimonies and their own “words of wisdom” to encourage others with HPV-related cancer.
As part of his effort to bring attention to HPV-related oral cancer, Jason joined the board of directors of the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance (headandneck.org); he serves as the co-chair for the group’s Patient Education Committee. He also serves on the board of the Florida Hospital Cancer Institute as a patient advocate.
Through his work with HNCA and SupermanHPV.com, he informs adults who have been diagnosed with an oral cancer to be checked for HPV-16 and encourages parents to talk to their children’s pediatricians about the Gardasil vaccination that can be given to boys and girls ages 9 to 26.