(CARLSBAD, Calif.) — It’s hard to resist watching the contestants on the ABC show Wipeout getting tossed around the obstacle course like rag dolls. But one of those contestants quickly learned that being tossed around was exactly the reason his life was saved.
Jason Poznaks, 41, is a children’s ministry pastor in Carlsbad, Calif. He said his kids encouraged him to participate in the show.
“I think more than 85,000 people applied on the season. For us to go through the audition and actually get on was a lot of fun. We dedicated it to the children and the youth that we serve. I think my catchphrase was ‘This is for every kid that wanted me to be wiped out,’” Poznaks laughed.
But as most contestants do, Poznaks got banged up pretty badly throughout the course of the show.
“I took some pretty heavy hits and had some severe pain for a few days,” he explained.
Poznaks was having severe headaches and eyesight problems after the show, so he visited the optometrist on June 11 thinking all he needed was new contact lenses.
“The first symptom was loss of peripheral vision in both eyes. So I went to the optometrist first. He just apologized and said my eyes are perfect. This is a neurological issue,” said Poznaks.
Following doctor’s orders, Poznaks immediately made an appointment with a neurologist. This is when he first discovered he had a brain tumor.
Poznaks was immediately scheduled for surgery and on June 21, doctors were operating on him to remove the tumor. Poznaks, remaining in good spirits, likes to refer to as his tumor as his “alien” or “giant peanut.”
The surgeon believes she got the entire tumor removed with the surgery, but Poznaks is still waiting for his full diagnosis.
“We’re just waiting for pathology to come back to make sure that’s correct. It’s a rare kind of tumor so they want to determine the best approach. I’m still supposed to have three MRI’s and a spinal tap,” he explained.
Despite the diagnosis coming on so quickly, Poznaks said he felt unusually prepared for the removal process.
“I actually felt very prepared going into the surgery because I’m familiar with how the brain works. I work with children all the time and have learned about their cognitive learning ability,” he said.
Poznaks has a rare form of brain tumor, found in less than 2 percent of people.
“What’s intriguing is that it’s found particularly in children, so I guess you could say, ‘I’m close to my people.’ None of us were surprised by that, we all laughed. It’s so fitting,” Poznaks said.
In hindsight, Poznaks said he realizes all the warning signs were there for years.
“Definitely fatigue. I’d have to several naps a day. My children would notice it. I’d just come home and grab 30 minutes of sleep on the couch. I had neck and back pain because the tumor was pushing the atlas bone,” Poznaks explained.
After all that he’s been through so fast, Poznaks is upbeat about his situation.
“I’m going to need seven weeks of radiation therapy, so I’m going to be bald. The kids are excited. I work with kids with cancer so they’re pumped to see me bald,” he said. “I really do feel in great spirits about the journey, even though the destination is unknown. It is great to be alive.”
Poznaks has some advice for future Wipeout contestants.
“Just go and have fun. It’s the chance of a lifetime. I call it work hard play hard.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Sandra Gonzalez, CNN
Brett Crandall, BYU-Idaho Communications