UCSB alumnus Jake Thorn died on Oct. 30 from complications surrounding a bone marrow transplant. The 23-year-old had been diagnosed with T-Cell lymphoma six months earlier.
“His death was and is devastating,” Robert Thorn, Jake’s father, said. “He was very loved and was such a dedicated young man.”
Jake, a political science major, graduated from UCSB in 2006. During his time on campus, he frequently contributed to the Daily Nexus Opinion page and was active in social and political causes as a member of Associated Students Finance Board, UCSB Campus Democrats and Amnesty International. Additionally, Thorn started a grassroots student activist Web site, www.losethelabel.org.
Despite the medical problems that plagued Jake throughout his time at school, Robert Thorn said his son was an excellent student and remained involved in campus human rights and political groups, usually keeping his illnesses from his friends and acquaintances.
“[Jake] graduated in three years from UCSB and was a very bright kid,” Thorn said. “Basically, all throughout his schooling, he was involved in Amnesty International and the Campus Democrats, but the young man had to run to the bathroom maybe four or five times a day. No one knew it. He mostly kept it to himself.”
According to Robert Thorn, his son had been receiving treatments for ulcerative colitis – an intestinal disease that causes inflammation in the rectum and colon lining – since his freshman year. In May, 2008, Thorn was diagnosed with Lymphoma and spent the summer undergoing rigorous chemotherapy treatments. Thorn had defeated the aggressive blood and bone marrow cancer in September before suffering fatal complications from a bone marrow transplant in October.
After discovering that he had cancer, Jake began to catalog his condition on various online journals and blogs. Just a week following his initial diagnosis in May, Jake expressed optimism at the results of his chemotherapy.
“It’s too early to be sure, but … there’s a chance I’ll be out of here soon,” Thorn wrote. “I miss being at home, sleeping in my own bed, walking around the backyard. … I’ve felt my whole perspective change over the course of one week.”
According to those close to him, such hope was characteristic of Thorn’s outlook throughout the nearly four years he spent in and out of hospitals for his medical conditions.
“During his whole recovery process, the one thing that was really inspiring about him was that even after everything, he was very optimistic and hopeful,” Kelly Patterson, a fourth-year art history and French major, said.
Patterson, recalling her first impression of Jake, said she often saw him tabling in the Arbor for various causes and said she would always remember his infectious enthusiasm and commitment to his beliefs.
“Jake showed us how to lead your life with passion and perseverance,” she said. “Before I met Jake, it seemed like every day I would see him with a sign that said ‘Impeach Bush’ at the Arbor. Sometimes he was with a couple of friends, but usually it was just him. I remember thinking to myself, ‘Wow, this guy is really dedicated to the cause.'”