Shrewsbury resident continues battle with leukemia

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Jonathan Tomashefsky poses for a photo in the bone marrow unit at UMass Memorial Hospital in Worcester. (Photo/submitted)

SHREWSBURY – Shrewsbury resident and Westborough High School graduate Jonathan Tomashefsky had been off of chemotherapy for less than two months late last year before he suffered his second relapse of leukemia.

Now cancer free, but battling lasting effects of that relapse, Tomashefsky is thanking his community while eyeing a long road ahead.

“This is temporary,” he said in a recent interview with the Community Advocate. “I’m so young. And I have my whole life ahead of me.”

Tomashefsky enjoyed local childhood

Tomashefsky grew up in Shrewsbury but finished his secondary schooling in Westborough.

He played sports as a child. He also played musical instruments, being pictured in the Community Advocate playing trumpet alongside his father, Paul, back in 2015.

Tomashefsky was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in December of 2016, though, beginning a long and, at times, painful journey.

Tomashefsky suffered a relapse in 2019, also surviving multiple blood infections and time spent in the ICU while in septic shock.

He had returned to college this past fall after five years of chemotherapy, hoping to continue his education in pursuit of a career as a social worker.

But his cancer quickly returned, sending Tomashefsky back into more intensive treatment.

This happened just four days before Tomashefsky’s 22nd birthday last October.

Family hopeful about new treatment

The months since have been a roller coaster.

Though Tomashefsky is cancer free, he can’t simply stop treatment.

“If I did do that, my cancer would come back,” he said.

He visits a bone marrow clinic three times each week for check ins and recently underwent an immunotherapy procedure that involved extracting and refining his T-cells.

That had been showing positive signs for “a few days.” Soon after, though, it became clear that those cells were no longer viable.

Tomashefsky said this made him sad and angry.

He was undergoing the procedure for a second time, as of this week, however, with hopes that he would see better results.

“We’re really hopeful that it’s going to work this time,” he said.

‘We’re just staying positive’

Outside of physical treatment, Tomashefsky is contending with the mental toll that cancer can take.

“We’re just staying positive and trying to be as happy and hopeful as we all can,” he said.

He takes walks. He works with a counselor and keeps a journal focused on positivity. He plays Xbox.

There’s also hope in this immunotherapy process, Tomashefsky said, noting that it could help him avoid needing a bone marrow transplant and the “grueling” aftermath of that process.

Tomashefsky still hopes to work in social work or a related field.

In the meantime, he’s grateful to friends, family and community members who have supported him. That includes individuals who have reached out with kind words through a GoFundMe page that a loved one set up.

Notes from people who were diagnosed with cancer in their childhoods before achieving longterm remission have also been particularly helpful, Tomashefsky said.

“It’s kind of nice to have those outlets and support to see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” he said of those messages.

Altogether, Tomashefsky continues to push onward.

“You can choose to be angry all the time,” he said. “Or you can choose to just be positive and be happy and just try to live your life each day.”

Tomashefsky’s GoFundMe can be found at https://gofund.me/2297a554.

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