Jason Richter, director of student engagement, is recognized by students as the clever caller of late night BINGO. But this year, Richter wasn’t calling Grocery BINGO during Welcome Week. He was sitting in his hospital room in Iowa City playing it over a television screen.
Richter finished receiving his first stem cell transplant to help treat his rare cancer, multiple myeloma, just in time to be a part of the game.
He won, of course, with four corners.
“They brought the prize cart around,” Richter said, “And I ended up with a dancing St. Bernard. Except it doesn’t dance and they didn’t give me the power cord. So I really got a dog statue.”
As Richter shared the story on his CaringBridge website, he said he was already thinking about how the “statue” would fit perfectly with the other artifacts on his desk, making it apparent his positivity and quirkiness had not been defeated.
Richter started experiencing back pain in Nov. 2012. After months of appointments, an MRI revealed a compression fracture on Richter’s spine and lesions on his ribs, pelvic, and tail bones.
On May 2, 2013, Richter was diagnosed with multiple myeloma.
Multiple myeloma is a cancer of plasma cells. These cells are critical components of a functioning immune system. It develops in 1-4 of every 100,000 people.
Richter and his wife Tina decided to tackle the cancer aggressively. Working with specialists in Iowa City, Richter accepted the challenging months ahead would be filled with intense chemotherapy treatments and several stem cell transplants.
“I started looking at what I’ve lived already,” Richter said. “I have a great wife, great kids, I’ve had two spectacular jobs, I went to a great college, growing up I had strong brothers and parents I’d do anything for. I’ve already lived a great life. Why stop now because I have cancer?”
With that positive attitude, Richter completed his first rounds of stem cell donations, chemotherapy, and stem cell transplants. He will have another transplant in November which will be followed by two years of maintenance chemotherapy.
“The power of positivity is said to help recovery efforts in getting better,” Richter said. “Well I don’t know the research on that. But I do know that a positive attitude is definitely powerful on the people you interact with.”
Brittany Bersano and Lindsey Gibney, executive members of Campus Activities Board, have been stepping up during Richter’s absence. Both have experienced the power of positivity Richter promotes.
“He has inspired me to be a loyal friend, dedicated worker,” Bersano says, “And to always, always find light in dark situations.”
While Richter was in Iowa City during Welcome Week and the first few weeks of students being back on campus, his colleagues Ramona Amos and Sophia Pierce were in constant communication with him. With their guidance and the strength of the CAB Executive Board, Richter anxiously awaited hearing about CAB’s success.
“Everyone in the organization has stepped up to make Jason proud,” Gibney said. “Jason has mentored us so well we were still able to make these events successful. We can’t wait for him to be back.”
Richter is anxious for his strength to come back so he can be back on campus full time. He finished up an 18 day stay in Iowa City and was discharged and able to come home on Sept. 2. For now, he will Skype into meetings and stop by the offices minimally until his immune system is completely restored.
“I’ll have my mask and gloves on,” he said. “I’m not contagious, you guys are.”
Richter says his main source of motivation is his wife and three sons, Jackson, ten, Carter, six, and Gus, one. But he has another push in the back of his mind during his recovery.
“My goal is to be able to call BINGO at Last Blast,” Richter said. “Fingers crossed.”
There will be a benefit for Richter on November 15, 2013 at 5:00 p.m. at Davenport CASI. Search “Team Jason Richter Benefit” on Facebook for more information.