Sept. 6, 1987 – April 17, 2018
The first time Jake Madonia staged a comeback from cancer was while he was attending the University at Buffalo on a sports scholarship. He was a shot putter.
“I was getting ready to do a summer internship with the Cleveland Browns in 2008 and had a lump on my left foot for a while when my girlfriend noticed it and was concerned,” he told an interviewer in 2012. “I thought that before I go to Cleveland I should find out what this is. And it was beginning to bother me.”
Diagnosed with synovial sarcoma, a rare soft tissue cancer, he had two surgeries at Roswell Park Cancer Institute that removed the middle toe on his left foot and part of an adjacent toe, then underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments that blistered his skin.
By January, despite pain, he convinced his coach that he was ready to compete in an indoor track and field meet, the Cornell Upstate Challenge. When he won the shot put with a toss of more than 55 feet, the entire team burst into tears.
The second comeback was in 2012 when he walked across the stage to receive his bachelor’s degree from UB’s School of Nursing. Three weeks earlier he had undergone surgery to remove a small portion of his upper right lung. His cancer had metastasized.
Mr. Madonia lost his long struggle with the disease April 17. He was 30.
Born in Rome, N.Y., Jacob A. Madonia was a 2005 graduate of Rome Free Academy, where he won three league and sectional titles in shot put and discus and earned all-league honors as a football lineman.
At UB, he placed second at the track and field conference championships in 2009 and qualified for NCAA regionals that year. He went on to win the Indoor Mid-American Conference Championships in 2010.
After he received a bachelor’s degree in psychology at UB, he went on to complete a master’s degree in exercise physiology.
Inspired by nurses at Mount St. Mary’s Hospital in Lewiston while doing an internship there, he decided to enroll in UB’s accelerated bachelor’s degree program for nursing. When he graduated in 2012, he told an interviewer that he wanted to work in pediatrics at Roswell Park.
“A kid can have leukemia or lymphoma, but they’re a kid first,” he said then. “For them, the disease comes second. And it also helps that I have gone through some of what they’re going through.”
Mr. Madonia became a registered nurse in Roswell Park’s Pediatrics Department. On multiple recommendations from his patients, he was given Roswell Park’s DAISY award in 2014.
In a Roswell Park blog after receiving the award, he wrote: “Fighting cancer is without a doubt an endurance race. I was thrown into a fight for my life without notice.
“Because of this, I held on to my family and friends a little tighter and appreciated their support a little more. I chased my goals a little harder because I never knew when cancer would step in the way again.”
A Youngstown resident, he enjoyed woodworking, photography, home improvement and playing the saxophone.
He married his college sweetheart, Lorrina Kostuk, in 2013.
Survivors also include a daughter, Nalina; his mother, Judy; two sisters, Dana Blake and Leona Mendiola; and his maternal grandmother, Lillian Pease.
Services were held Saturday in M. J. Colucci & Son Niagara Funeral Chapel, 2730 Military Road, Niagara Falls.