11/06/12 — Making sure he got his say

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Making sure he got his say

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on November 6, 2012 1:46 PM

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Jake May poses with his mother, Cindy, right, and sister Cady after voting at his polling place this morning.

It was just one vote -- a single voice in the millions that will be heard across the nation on Election Day.

But for Jake May, it was about "not taking things for granted" -- about thanking those who have stood alongside him during his battle by casting his ballot for the man he believes will help them prosper.

The prognosis was promising, but there were no guarantees.

So when, nearly 10 months after he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the 18-year-old approached St. Luke United Methodist Church early this morning, it marked another victory against the foe he first met Jan. 9.

He had made it to the polls -- in spite of the fact that just a few days ago, he was confined to a bed inside Duke Hospital.

His mother, Cindy, wasn't surprised.

Last week, at his bedside, she talked about just how determined Jake was to exercise the right his illness could have easily robbed from him.

"He's probably gonna have to wear a mask. I don't know what his energy level is gonna be like. This isn't gonna be an easy thing for him to do," she said Wednesday. "It would be really easy for him to say, 'I don't feel good. I'm not gonna go vote.' But this is really important to him."

Jake smiled.

"When I turned 18, I felt like it's a privilege to get that right," he said.

So with Cindy and his sister, Cady, by his side, he entered the polling station -- to cast his ballot on behalf of those people who might be too ill to do the same.

"I'm not the only one going through this," he said.

And it's that kind of perspective, Cindy said, that has impressed her the most.

Jake seems to understand that over the past year, he has become something more than simply another young man.

He has turned into a cause his friends and the Wayne County community would rally behind on the "Pray for the May" Facebook page, T-shirts and bumper stickers created shortly after his diagnosis.

He has become "proof," to many, of the healing power of faith when, last week, he moved into the "maintenance phase" of his cancer treatment.

And for local baseball players, the former Eastern Wayne High School catcher has been transformed into their motivation to live up to the many mantras Jake called out before they took to the field in seasons past -- phrases like "Never give up, "Be strong" and "Stick together."

The boy's father, Roger, said he never could have imagined just how much of an impact his son would make on others.

"We've been blessed, and I really can't say enough about that," he said.

And for Cindy, Jake's battle -- and how it has been received by those who know him -- substantiates her belief that the 18-year-old is destined for greatness.

"He missed baseball season. He missed hanging with his friends his senior year. He missed going off to college for the first time," she said, wiping tears from her eyes. "He's missed so much and he never complained. He never has said, 'Why me?'

"So I think he's here for a reason and I don't think it's just that he's inspired so many people. There's something else."

It was more than just a single vote.

For Jake May, it was a rite of passage he knows he wasn't guaranteed -- one he will forever be grateful for; one he vows never to take for granted.