Sam LiBassi, treasured member of the Imerman Angels community, lost his battle with Ewing’s sarcoma on October 24th, 2013. Sam’s journey with Imerman Angels began shortly after he was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma in February of 2011. Imerman Angels founder Jonny Imerman became aware of Sam through a mutual friend. When the two finally met, the relationship between them was organic. It didn’t take long for Sam to get involved with Imerman Angels, speaking at a fundraiser at Navy Pier and even appearing on ABC 7’s Windy City Live.
Sam was the second of four children, born in Cleveland Ohio. He was homeschooled throughout high school and went on to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. After graduating, he was hired as a mechanical engineer at Parker Hannif in Lincolnshire, IL. He was deeply involved in youth leadership and regularly attended Lake County Baptist Church in Waukegan. In August of 2013, he married the love of his life, Bettie, in Lincoln Park, Chicago.
Those that knew Sam say that he excelled at everything he did, and also incorporated his faith into every part of his life. One thing that stood out about Sam was his attitude; even when Sam was in pain, he maintained his faith in God and exerted an infectiously positive attitude. Along with his attitude came a naturally curious personality. Anything that Sam learned about, he wanted to know more about and was always fascinated by even the simplest things. He also loved to cook, read, and show off the city of Chicago to his friends.
Upon joining Imerman Angels, Sam was paired with a Mentor Angel named Vince who was an Ewing’s sarcoma survivor. Vince provided Sam with a great amount of support throughout his battle. Vince and Sam’s relationship helped to comfort Sam and helped him to retain his positive attitude amidst his illness. Being able to communicate with somebody who had also battled Ewing’s sarcoma allowed Sam to know what was to come, as well as to know that there was a light at the end of the tunnel.
Sam, who loved running, had just signed up for the 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon days before his diagnosis. Though he wasn’t able to run the 2011 marathon, Sam remained determined to run and train again. Sam went into remission in November of 2011, and signed himself up for the 2012 Chicago Marathon. In September of 2012, only a month before the race, Sam relapsed. However, he was diligent about participating in the marathon with Team Imerman Angels. Though he wasn’t able to fully compete, he ran eight miles and was still able to cross the finish line and receive a medal.
Sam planned to run another marathon as soon as he was better. Although Sam passed away before he was able to do so, his sister, Elizabeth, and several of their close friends plan to run the 2014 Bank of America Chicago Marathon in his memory alongside Team Imerman Angels. Team Imerman Angels currently has over 230 members that actively participate in various sports and events around the city in order to gain awareness for their mission of providing personalized connections that enable 1-on-1 support among cancer fighters, survivors, and caregivers.
Love is in the air, especially on this Valentine’s Day. Recently we received an email from a woman who sought support from us in the past. In this email she stated, “If it wasn’t for your organization, I wouldn’t have met my husband.” Jaws dropped! From angel wings to wedding rings, this was definitely an unexpected connection!
In March 2010 Sherry was dealing with abnormal blood counts and learned she had MDS. This is when she was led to Imerman Angels. She signed up for support immediately and was paired almost instantaneously with a Mentor Angel named Jamie. Sherry was living in California while Jamie was living in New Jersey. Jamie reached out to Sherry right away and they spoke for over an hour, sharing their stories and treatment options. From that moment on they chatted about their journeys and talked all the time through phone calls and texts.
A friendship was developing, but who knew it would be any more than that? Eventually Jamie mailed Sherry a cool cover for her arm picc line which she considered a lifesaver. Fast forwarding to 2011, that summer Sherry and a friend traveled to New Jersey to meet Jamie. She stated, “It was a great visit and I knew there was something indescribable between us.” In fact, it was that great she decided to go back and visit again at Thanksgiving. This time around she knew more than a friendship blossomed and eventually she relocated from CA to NJ in 2012.
On Christmas Eve 2012, Jamie proposed to Sherry. By mid December 2013, they were married happily ever after. Sherry mentioned, “I don’t know how a course of events made it possible to have married my best friend. However, I know one thing for sure… without Imerman Angels, there is no way two people living on opposite coasts would have ever met!”
Although we are not a dating match making service, sometimes magic happens. See below a picture of connection perfection at its finest!
“Getting a cancer diagnosis was shocking, but it has made me a more positive and productive person.”
By Ed Giampietro, as told to Jo Cavallo
“I’ve been blessed with good health for most of my life, and I was careful to keep it that way. I don’t smoke, I eat a healthy diet, and I maintain a healthy weight. I also was fortunate to be born with pretty good genes and have no family history of cancer. In fact, except for an occasional flare-up of gout, I’ve never had any serious illnesses. So it was a complete shock in the fall of 2009 when my wife Ann Marie and I came home from having dinner out and I found blood in my urine.
At first I thought it was probably a bladder infection and made an appointment the next morning to see my primary care physician. Although she didn’t say anything at the time, I was sure she suspected that I had something more serious than a bladder infection. She ordered an ultrasound test for the next day, which was followed by a CT scan and other diagnostic tests. Finally, I was told that there was a 12-cm tumor sitting on my right kidney and that there was a high probability that it was cancer.
Coping With Cancer Metastases
Until blood appeared in my urine, I hadn’t had any symptoms that anything was wrong. But soon after the diagnosis, I started experiencing chronic shortness of breath, an irritating cough, and small blood clots in my urine. It felt as though the tumor was sucking the life out of me.
I was told I needed a radical nephrectomy and that one of my ribs would need to be removed. The biopsy showed that the tumor was stage II kidney cancer. My doctor said that he removed all signs of the cancer and that I wouldn’t need further treatment.
But a month later, when I went back for a follow-up CT scan, the test showed hundreds of nodules on both lungs—the cancer had metastasized. Now I was scared.
The diagnosis was changed to stage IV disease, and I was offered treatment with high-dose interleukin-2 (Proleukin). Although my prognosis wasn’t good, and I had just a 7% to 15% chance for a durable full recovery, I underwent the treatment, and within a few months the tumors starting shrinking. Today, I am cancer-free.
While I am so thankful to my oncology team for taking such good care of my medical needs, I wish that they had paid more attention to my emotional needs. I was looking for some encouraging words while I was going through treatment—and even now that I’m in remission—but they never came.
I try to put myself in my doctors’ shoes and realize how difficult it must be to treat cancer patients, especially when their disease is as advanced as mine was, and you can’t be sure of the outcome. I know that if I hadn’t gotten such great medical treatment, I wouldn’t still be here, but I felt that the lack of an emotional connection was the missing piece in my care.
Living the Best Possible Life
I have always been a positive person, but the experience of having cancer has made me even more determined to live a purposeful life. I don’t concern myself with life’s small inconveniences, and I don’t have patience for chronic complainers.
I am so grateful for having survived cancer, I decided to help others going through a similar circumstance and joined Imerman Angels, a one-on-one cancer support group that matches a newly diagnosed patient with a survivor of the same type of cancer. So far, I have talked with a dozen kidney cancer patients around the country, and the experience has been very gratifying.
Now that I’ve been a survivor for 4 years, I don’t live in constant fear that the cancer will recur, but I know that it is a possibility. If I am faced with a recurrence, I will once again put my trust in my oncology team and be open to any treatments they recommend. In the meantime, I’m living the best life I can, and I don’t take anything for granted.”
Ed Giampietro is an operations manager for a global technology company in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
We had an emotional, but joyful day at the Imerman Angels office yesterday, December 3. Long time cancer fighter, mentor angel and dear friend of founder Jonny Imerman, Jennifer Smith, was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer at the young age of 30. At the time of her diagnosis, Jen was a new mother to now seven-year-old Corbin. She turned her negative news into a source of deep motivation and began working closely with Imerman Angels.
In addition to her work as a mentor angel, Jen mentored young women with breast cancer as a founding member and organizer of the local Champaign-Urbana Affiliate Chapter of the Young Survivor Coalition. Everything Jen was involved with was dedicated to raising breast cancer awareness in young women.
Because of Jen’s dedication and strength as a mother and in her fight against breast cancer, Jen was selected as one of eight women to be awarded for her inspiration by the Kids II foundation Pink Power Mom program in 2013. Kids II is a small family owned corporation that creates children’s toys. When they started receiving an overwhelming amount of letters from mothers stating how thankful they were for their products that kept their children occupied during their breast cancer treatment, Kids II took action.
Around Mother’s Day every year nominations are sent to the Pink Power Mom program from across the country for courageous mothers who suffer from breast cancer that are making a difference in their community. Each year, the eight winners are flown to Atlanta for a spa weekend and are presented with a check to give to a non-profit of their choice.
Earlier this year, Jen’s breast cancer came back strong. She fought hard until the end, but passed away in late September. Yesterday, Heidi Floyd, the Executive Director of Pink Power Mom, Jen’s mother, Nancy Arnold and Jen’s sister Sara joined us at the Imerman Angels office for Jen’s check presentation. We were all saddened that Jen wasn’t with us, but it was her wish that the donation be made to Imerman Angels. This $5,000 check is the first of five donations, which will be awarded once a year.
For more information on Pink Power Moms, visit pinkpowermom.com.
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Any Sport, Any Race, Anywhere!
$150,000 in funds raised as 90 members of Team IA cross the finish line benefitting Imerman Angels’ mission to enable 1-on-1 cancer support for cancer fighters, survivors and caregivers
Congratulations, Team Imerman Angels, for completing the 2013 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. We believe that every fundraising page created, jersey worn while training, and each individual informed of the Imerman Angels mission helps raise awareness to ensure that no one faces cancer alone.
Our marathon weekend began with the Bank of America Chicago Marathon Health and Fitness Expo at McCormick Place Convention Center. Guests were invited to browse more than 200 exhibitors of marathon apparel, footwear, and latest fitness technology. On Saturday evening, Team Imerman Angels members and their families were invited to enjoy a protein-packed pasta dinner at Bongiorno’s courtesy of Imerman Angels.
Team Imerman Angels, headed by first time marathon runner and head of Team IA recruiting Khitam Masoud, was comprised of 90 members from all over the United States and beyond. Masoud, a two-time cancer survivor, first decided to run with Imerman Angels last year when she met Israel Antonio, a blind athlete who runs for various organizations. His determination to overcome challenges inspired Khitam to train hard and cross the finish line in support of Imerman Angel’s cause.
Team Imerman Angels runners who participated in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon include: Matthew Abeles, Jessica Alger, Israel Antonio, Shilpa Anturkar, James Auste, Lisa Baranuska, Christina Bayer, Suzanne Blaising, Danielle Blount, Adam Callans, Michael Camerano, Prashant K Chawla, Isabel Chung, Brianne M Connolly, Pascale Dargis, Katie Donnewald, James R Escobar, Caitlin Fitzpatrick, Caroline Frost, Sean Gallagher, Heidi H. Gerhardt, Nicholas Gow, Christopher J. Hemzacek, Samantha J. Herink, Eric S Horng, Heather A. Hoskin, Brennan Hughes, Becky Ives, Daniel Jacobsen, Andrew D. Johnson, Stephen Johnson, Courtney Joseph, Mergim Kacija, Lysee Kaye, Christopher M. Klotz, Kimberly Koetter, Beth A. Kosar, Kristen Kostka, Daniel Krueger, Arlena Larocca, David S. Lautenbach, Helen M. Liggett, Ted A. Liggett, Matthew F. Logan, Sean Mansfield, Tyler Mansfield, Stacie Marshall, Khitam Masoud, Brandan Mccanna, Allison Mecher, Michael P Minogue, Paul T. Minogue, Mike Moreau, Kerry Morris, Aaron Mulvaney, Janelle Myers, Jonathon Nagle, Catherine Napier, Andy Nesheim, Michael Nickes, Gabrielle Niewinski, Grant A Niewinski, Hector Nunez, Devlin O’Connor, Erick N. Perez, Jessica Perez, Christopher Pilat, Jennifer Pilat, Eli Polites, Deanna Poneman, Todd M. Rubin, Lidsay Rufa, Mary Sanders, Richard Schad, Jay Schiesser, Tony Schirmang, Jennifer Shulkin, Brent Smyth, Anne Marie Stephen, Timothy Swindle, Kaleb Taylor, Coree K. Thomas, Cheryl A. Trace, Stacey L. Vallarta, Laura Walker, Kevin J. Ware, Stephanie Wedel, Bobby Weil, Sarah Werner, David M. Wolf, Kathleen G. Yagihashi, and Lynn M. Yakoweshen.
Factor 75, a healthy meal delivery service, was waiting at the finish line to feed all the hungry members of Team IA a protein packed meal.
Coming up, Team Imerman Angels will be participating in the Hot Chocolate 15/5K run in Grant Park on November 3 as well as the Shamrock Shuffle 8K in April 2014.