Club Fit Personal Trainer Jason Needle was first diagnosed with Leukemia three years ago. His more recent diagnosis of Acute Myeloid Leukemia with a level three mutation has proven more accurate and is the reason the Mahopac resident has repeatedly succumbed to relapse. While each setback takes a toll, it never lingers. “I get right back on top of it,” says Needle and may explain why so much of his time is spent helping others.
The main avenue is the McDonough Foundation. Helping local people with the various expenses and needs that arise of cancer, Jason’s affiliation comes partly as a form of payback. “They reached out to help me the first time I got sick. But I felt other people needed that money, so once I finally could, I started Jason’s Army,” said Needle who as a Parisi Speed Coach specializes in athletic performance – the vertical jump, 40 yard dash, broad jumps and so on.
A Facebook page created to quarter his Army, Jason can detail the difficulties but more importantly inspire others with his example. “I try to live as close to what I use to live every single day,” he said.
The page now has 850 followers. “It pulls everybody together,” said the Iraq War vet.
Of all the positive feedback, a game of horse with fellow Club Fit trainer Jen Ritz sent the good will into a gallop. “We were like, let’s do a 5K,” said Ritz of the late October race that pulled in 180 runners and $25,000 for the foundation.
Unfortunately, the actual running brought the re-diagnosis above, and he couldn’t be as involved as he wanted to be. That doesn’t mean Jason sat it out. “They all waited at the finish line for me. It was pretty crazy,” said Needle by phone from the hospital, where he was suffering a bout of pneumonia.
Yet another ailment among a series that has had him constantly in and out of the hospital. But all that mileage ended up ensnaring boxer Mike Tyson into Jason’s inertia. Attending to a dying friend in the same hospital, Tyson was happy to meet Jason and hearing his saga floored the champ like a one-two punch to the chin. “He was crying on my shoulder listening to my story,” says Needle.
Nonetheless, they hang out, talk and text, and Jason has seen Tyson’s show a number of times. But the champ puts a higher purpose to their serendipitous friendship. “He doesn’t know why, but there’s a reason we’ve met,” Jason relays Tyson’s recurring words.As exciting as all this is, the Facebook page still means so much to Jason. “I reach out to people. I ask them questions. I look at the bright side of stuff, and I’m able to bring them out of a funk,” said Needle.
Ritz knows the feeling from a far less dramatic perspective. “He helps you realize that the little things don’t matter,” she said.
At the same time, Jason still keeps the focus off himself. “He wants to know what’s going on in your life, and if we don’t bring up the cancer, you kind of forget about it,” said Ritz.
Conversely, what’s distinctly apparent is how Jason’s selflessness pulls people into the cause. “When we talk about how many people this will help, he just lights up. You see that, and you want to do anything to help the guy,” she said.
So it follows that no matter the face of his fortunes, the approach is always the same. “If I’m positive, I have leukemia. If I’m negative I still have leukemia so it’s your choice. You can choose to be positive or negative because everyday that goes by, that’s your life,” he says. “So I try to be as happy as I can.”
The proof is found in those around him. “I guess it rubs off on people,” he supposes.
Given how he impacts everyone around him, there’s no reason to guess.
Originally published at MKCCC Sports. Reprinted with permission.Photo: Courtesy of author