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When Matthew Stasik walked into his high school prom, he had three dates on one arm, and two on the other.
The high school senior from Alexandria, Va., had good reason to make such a grand entrance.
His doctors at Inova Fairfax Hospital for Children had declared him cancer-free, and so Stasik invited to the prom the five oncology nurses who helped put him on the road to recovery.
Stasik said nurses Susie Raeder, Kelly Printz, Kathleen O'Grady, Kim Minus, and Charawn High, helped him through the most difficult time of his life.
"Kelly is the best shot giver," he recalled. "Susie was the best at cheering me up because she reminds me of my sister. Carawy was the best in waking me up, and Kathleen was the best during spinal taps and bossing everybody else around."
Stasik Suffered Through Two Cancers
Stasik was just 11 years old when, after getting over strep throat, a lump on the side of his neck had lingered. Then, he and his family learned the lump was cancer.
The boy's father, Val Stasik, recalled his shock when the doctors told him: "Your son has non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. It's cancer."
Matthew Stasik said he was devastated at first, but he quickly learned he couldn't allow the disease to take over his life. Stasik turned to his sense of humor to get him through the hard times.
"I tried to stay optimistic and when I was able to joke about it, everybody else could joke about it and it was easier for everybody," Stasik said.
After braving nine months of chemotherapy, Stasik was given a clean bill of health.
But then two years later, the unthinkable happened once again. The lymphoma became leukemia and he had to start treatment again.
Singing 'I Will Survive'
The next 21/2 years of Stasik's life were grueling. There were long stays at the hospital and Stasik never even made it to school during his sophomore year.
Stasik is doing well now and he said the prom was an opportunity to celebrate his second chance with the women who helped him get through the tough times.
The attention from his surprised classmates didn't hurt either.
"They didn't know I was going to bring five dates," Stasik said. "When they actually saw them, they were like, 'Wow, Matt!' "
For the nurses, who had been to many of their patients' funerals, a night with the teen who had battled so much, was an evening they would cherish forever.
When the prom DJ played the disco anthem "I Will Survive," no one sang the refrain louder.
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