Jason: In It to Win It


The Kewanee Ballhawks 12u softball team has had its share of wins this year — they recently had a 24-game winning streak and have won seven tournaments to date and counting.

You could say they are in it to win it, and indeed, they are. They have adopted the team motto of “In It To Win It — for Jason.”

Jason Hecht of Princeton, father of Ballhawkers McKenzie (13), Addi (11) and Makayla (9), developed a re-occurrence of his appendix cancer which was first diagnosed a couple of years ago.

A Double Play in the OR

The only treatment for appendix cancer, a rare cancer, that has spread into the abdominal cavity is Cytoreductive Surgery (CRS) with Heated Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy (HIPEC). After much research, Jason’s wife, Eileen, said they chose Dr. Sardi from the Mercy Institute for Cancer Care in Baltimore because he is a pioneer for this treatment and a leading expert.

Jason’s first CRS with HIPEC was two before this episode. His surgery was about 17 hours long, and they cleaned out his abdomen of all the tumors and mucus that they could see, Eileen said, and took out his appendix, spleen, gallbladder, omentum, part of his stomach, some of his liver, and multiple parts of his colon and small bowel. Basically everything that he could live without, Eileen said.

After the surgery, Heated Chemotherapy was put into the abdomen for 90 minutes to kill all the microscopic cancer cells. He stayed in the hospital for 28 days after surgery.

The Hechts continued to go to Baltimore every six months for follow-up CT scans and blood work. The CT scan and report from the radiologist looked normal this March for his 18-month checkup. But when Dr. Sardi and his PA looked and compared previous scans, they saw something new, Eileen said. After further testing it was confirmed the cancer was back.

“This was not the news we wanted to hear, but we were happy that they caught it much sooner this time,” Eileen said.

Cheering on the Home Team

Jason underwent CRS and HIPEC again. Surgery this time was about 11 hours with a 10-day hospital stay. He is home recovering now for the next two to three months. He will return to Baltimore in September for his follow up CT scan, blood work and check up. Then hopefully, he can continue with the six-month check ups, Eileen said.

The Hechts learned they would not be going at it alone. To show their support, the Ballhawks families started the “In It To Win It for Jason” fundraiser campaign this spring, selling T-shirts with all proceeds going toward the Hechts’ travel/medical expenses. More than 200 shirts were purchased between all the Ballhawks teams.

The girls would end their huddles by cheering, “In it to win it for Jason.” While he was recovering in Baltimore, the Ballhawks sent him Facebook Live feeds of McKenzie’s at-bats.

The Hechts, who moved to Princeton from Geneseo, were overwhelmed by the support and love they received from their Ballhawks family.

“The coaches and parents treat our daughters like their own,” Eileen said. “While out in Baltimore they all made sure the girls got to all the games and practices. We never had to worry about them missing out. They also made sure to keep us updated on all the games we missed by sending live video, texts and pictures.”

“It means a lot to me that all of my teammates and their parents were so helpful and caring during this challenging time,” Mckenzie said. “I was very grateful that I never had to worry about getting to practice or a game because someone was always willing to give me a ride. It also meant a lot when I saw how many people were wearing the “In it to Win it for Jason” T-shirts."

Fans, Friends and Family

Jason sent this letter to the Ballhawks families upon his arrival to Baltimore for surgery:

“BALLHAWKS, I have arrived in Baltimore, and surgery will be tomorrow. I wanted to take a moment and really thank you all for the tremendous support you have given me and my family while we deal with my cancer re-occurrence. The ‘In It To Win It’ shirts, thoughts, prayers, kind words have had more of an impact than you will ever ever know. For me the Ballhawks are more than just a softball team my daughters play on. The Ballhawks care. They care about their players, the parents and the community. Almost daily I think of what you all have done to lift me up and how the money raised helped us with our insurance/travel delays. I consider all of you my friends and would do anything for you or your kids.”

Written by Kevin Hieronymus, Bureau County Republican, Princeton, IL

Surgical Oncology at Mercy is recognized for skilled cancer surgeons who provide expertise in treating patients with melanoma, abdominal/stomach and GI cancers.