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.
With the 2012 Team Imerman fundraising up and running, we wanted to take a moment to share the story of one of Team Imerman’s runners.
At the age of 31, John Crowley was diagnosed and treated for a tumor in his lung. John was lucky enough to undergo a successful surgery that removed the tumor, which resulted in his recovery and four year remission.
While John was fortunate enough to have great family and friends support him during his battle with cancer, he wishes he would’ve had someone to talk who had been going through the same thing.
“After working in the oncology industry for over 10 years and contacting doctors all over the country, I couldn’t find one person who had experienced the same type of cancer that I had,” John recalls.
This is why John feels strongly about the mission of Imerman Angels. He recognizes the need for cancer patients to be able to connect with others who have gone down the same path and survived. With this mission in mind, John is inspired to raise money and run with Team Imerman.
On February 11, 2012 John celebrated his fourth year of remission by wearing the Team Imerman jersey and competing in “The Toughest Event on the Planet”, the Tough Mudder Race in Atlanta.
John’s positive attitude and efforts to give back are what make him the perfect advocate for Imerman Angels and we are proud to have him on our team!
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The mind is a powerful force. This year, Brain Tumor Awareness Month reminded us of one man in the brain tumor community who shows just how powerful, especially in times of adversity, the mind can be.
Eric Galvez considers himself to be a ‘mAss kicker’:
1. Someone who gets an intimidating diagnosis, hears the words,
“we found a mass in your _____ (insert important body structure here),” and
refuses to let it control their life.
After being diagnosed with a meningioma brain tumor, Eric underwent surgery and radiation therapy. When it was time to begin several months of rehabilitation, Eric got into the ‘mAss kicking’ mindset and prepared himself to take on any obstacles and physical impairments he might face – and he did it with vigor.
On top of never missing a single appointment, Eric continuously asked his physical therapists to schedule extra meetings. While requiring almost total assistance in nearly everything he did post-operation and radiation, Eric assured his doctors that, one day, he would surf again.
It was during his time in rehabilitation that Eric recognized the power that his brain had over all of his physical limitations.
“A brain tumor is not necessarily a ‘death sentence’.
Part of me was reborn with a new attitude that said,
Eric’s new “Why not?” outlook on life didn’t remain his alone. His mindset and perseverance spread to everyone with whom he came into contact, impressing even doctors who said that Eric, “challenges you; he motivates you; he takes you to another level.”
Eric Galvez is proof that, “The only thing limiting yourself is yourself.” As a ‘mAss Kicking’ leader in the brain tumor community, Eric inspires us to know that we “can accomplish anything that you really want to” – all we have to do is put our minds to it.
As Brain Tumor Awareness Month comes to an end, pass this video and Eric’s message along to three people you know who are affected by brain cancer, and keep spreading hope for other mAss kickers out there…long after the month has passed.
Much like Jonny Imerman, the founder of Imerman Angels, Eric Galvez knows the immeasurable impact that results from one person sharing knowledge and inspiration with someone else who is experiencing the unknowns of cancer. Check out the website on his organization, mAss Kickers, for more info: http://masskickers.org/