Park Ridge, IL. -- A young cancer survivor wanted to do something different to celebrate his birthday. So he held a birthday party where guests were encouraged to give the gift of life.
The gift of life is sometimes wrapped in an enigma.
"It was scary," Jimmy Rancich said. It was just after his 17th birthday, just before his junior year at Maine South, just as he was coming into his own, he received a devastating diagnosis. Ranchich said, "it was much harder and much tougher than i ever imagined it could have been."
He had a rare form of non-Hodgkin's T-cell lymphoma, and underwent several rounds of chemotherapy, six weeks of radiation, a stem cell transplant, multiple surgeries and who knows how many blood transfusions. "I don't even know how many I had. I just know I'm so grateful for the way they made me feel, and the way they saved my life, in a sense," Rancich said.
The blood transfusions, more than anything, he says, gave him the will to keep going. Rancich said, "you feel like you've been hit by a truck. Your body aches everywhere. You're tired, you're nauseous, then you get a blood transfusion and it is replenishing and energizing, and you feel like a whole new person after one."
So on Sunday July 23rd, he celebrated his 21st birthday. "We have two coach buses," Rancich said. "They have three or four seats in them and each one of them, someone can be it."
He and his mother came up with an unusual idea for a party. He asked his friends and neighbors to come donate blood. Lifesource provided the mobile blood labs.
"I said, you know what? This is all I want to do for my birthday. I don't really care about gifts right now, I just care about spending time with people and giving back," he said.
Michael Krone, a blood donor said, "it's a very Jimmy thing to do. He's always been a very caring guy." Another donor, Glenn Woerz said, "he's just a great person and I wish I could be more like him."
And that's this gift of life that jimmy is passing on as he celebrates another year of his own.
"Just positivity through all of it. There's definitely times where it's okay to break down and feel how much it sucks at times, feel the suck,I like to say," Rancich said. "But then you've got to get right back up and find the positives."