Jason Mayo is a husband, father, brother, cyclist, and enthusiastic lover of life. 

In June 2017, as life was in full swing, he gained another title, one he hadn’t signed up for: “cancer patient.” What had started as a small sore in his mouth became a life-changing milestone. A biopsy showed that it was cancer and that it had spread to local regions within his neck. The first line of defense was surgery, and he was referred to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX, one of the top cancer institutions in the country. 

After his surgery to remove the tumor in October 2017, Jason came home and began his radiation and chemotherapy treatments at West Cancer Center. He describes his recovery in brutal detail, the most haunting of which was the length of time he spent unable to eat properly — the majority of 2018. “Because it was surgery on my neck and throat, it was almost impossible to eat, and I lost a lot of weight.” 

In August 2018, as he began re-entering normal life, he spotted an unusual mole on his skin. Jason sought care with his previous surgeon at MD Anderson Cancer Center. When he received a call directly from his doctor with biopsy results, he knew the news was not good. The pathology report confirmed melanoma, and he immediately began immunotherapy. The following year was punctuated by twelve rounds of treatment, each followed by a week of sickness. After a year of treatments, he was finally all clear in Fall 2019, narrowly missing the onslaught of the global pandemic.

As a two-time cancer survivor, Jason is determined to live a life that is “better than ever.” Before 2018, he was generally active in cycling and running with his wife, but he has transcended to another level since making it through his health crises. Just a few months after his last treatment in 2019, Jason tried something new and signed up to compete in the 2020 Ironman 70.3 Memphis event to get back into the groove. Unfortunately, the event was canceled due to COVID-19, but he continued to train. When an injury during training limited his option for running, Jason began cycling more. 

Jason now rides with his wife thrice weekly with the Knucklehead Cycling group in Germantown. He even signed up for the Silver Rush Series, a 50-mile mountain bike race in Leadville, Colorado, in early July 2024 — a race he saw while watching a documentary.

It’s hard to fathom getting back up after life delivers back-to-back blows, but Jason lives by the philosophy that there’s always a silver lining. Now, he seeks out new opportunities, feeding off the inherent challenges in these endeavors of the unknown. To others struggling to get back to life after a crisis, he encourages indulging in life’s challenges and advises, “Sign up for the race that scares you.” 

To learn more, visit MDanderson.org or Westcancercenter.org.

By Amanda Tompkins 

Photo by Tindall Stephens