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Since he was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme six years ago, former Miami high school teacher David Menasche has had three surgeries, two and a half years of chemotherapy and 30 rounds of radiation. A seizure over the summer deepened his already worsening condition -- limiting functionality to much of the left side of his body, as well as losing most of his vision and memory.
With the belief that he is losing his battle against stage-four brain cancer, Menasche, 40, has embarked on a "Vision Quest" across the country to see the Pacific Ocean for the first time. He's also looking to find out whether he really made a difference in the lives of his students, to whom he taught English literature in Miami's Coral Reef Senior High School for 15 years.
"I am at the end of my life," Menasche told USA Today. "I don't know how much longer I have left, and I just wanted that sense of satisfaction that the time I did have I used well."
In August, he took to the Internet to reach out to former students, asking if any had a place for him to stay along the way. Within two days, he had received Facebook responses from students in 50 cities, according to USA Today. Since he started his journey in early November, Menasche has visited 50 former students in 12 cities. The former pupils are reminding the educator of his successes creating an environment "where you wanted to learn," one student told USA Today.
"He always said, 'Do whatever you are most passionate about because you never know if you are going to have another day,'" former student Alejandra Ocampo, now 21, told the Miami Herald of Menasche. "I wouldn't have [entered the music industry instead of studying law] if it wasn't for him. I love him to death for it."
His impact even extends beyond the classroom, with a "contagious" drive that inspired Kara Trucchio, another former student, to become a school counselor, according to NBC 6 Miami.
Menasche is keeping records of his travels and seeks to produce a film "that will live on as an inspiration to many others," he says. He is funding his travels and the documentary with a GoFundMe campaign, launched by close friend Heidi Goldstein. The fund had raised just over half of its $50,000 donation goal as of Tuesday evening.
As Menasche continues his cross-country quest, his visits and conversations with former students are helping him realize that he may have not lived "a wasted life," he told USA Today. He also believes his recent health struggles have only led him to a positive result: the trip.
"You can't control the cards you are dealt," Menasche told the Miami Herald. "Just the way you play them."