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Cancer Care

Kevin Jonas Sr. on His Colon Cancer Journey and the Importance of Early Detection

Photos: Courtesy of Travis Howard/Fight Colorectal Cancer

Kevin Jonas Sr. is known as “Papa Jonas,” father of the Jonas Brothers. But he’s also a cancer survivor and early detection advocate.

Jonas, 56, never wanted to call himself a survivor, but four years after his bout with colon cancer, it’s a term he now uses, calling the experience, “life-altering.”

He was diagnosed with Stage II colon cancer after his first colonoscopy in March 2017. Although his stomach had been hurting for years, including recurrent heartburn, he’d been reluctant to go to the doctor. He finally got a colonoscopy after his wife Denise urged him to.

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“She told me in tears, ‘I really need you to do this for me. I want you to be here,’” Jonas said. “I have to credit her with saving my life, along with the doctors, the nurses, and the aftercare.”

He wishes he’d gotten a colonoscopy sooner; doctors told him his cancer had likely been growing for more than 10 years.

Treatment

Over the years, Jonas dismissed his stomach discomfort as a side effect of tour life, when he was traveling with his sons as their careers were taking off. 

“Had I gone in early when I was feeling those symptoms and been transparent, I probably would have saved myself many obstacles,” said Jonas, who treated his cancer with surgery, followed by six months of chemotherapy. 

He experienced fatigue and neuropathy, as well as complications, including infections. He’s been in remission for four years and gets screenings every six months.


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Jonas and his wife live in North Carolina where they run their family restaurant Nellie’s Southern Kitchen. He’s grateful for the support of his wife, four sons, and three granddaughters. 

Early detection

Colonoscopies are recommended for people over age 50, but Jonas says if you’re dealing with any stomach issues, ask your doctor for an early colonoscopy. 

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“Don’t ignore the signs, don’t try to be a hero,” said Jonas, who’s a spokesperson for Fight CRC, a non-profit advocacy group that raises awareness about colon cancer and early detection. 

“It’s a humbling thing to walk through,” he said. “My hope is that that person out there right now can handle it and get it taken care of, without it impacting their life, their livelihood, their mobility. It’s so easy if it’s handled early.”

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