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Oct 23

 

Brain cancer.  To most people, these two simple words in combination register only as an abstract extreme left to the medical brainiacs (no pun intended) and nobel prize winners of the world to ponder upon and search to cure.  For Lee McPherson, fighter and Survivor Angel, brain cancer is a very real part of his life that he faces every day.

Captured in his blog http://cancershmancer.typepad.com/ Lee walks his audience through his November ’07  diagnosis with glioblastoma multiforme, grade IV brain cancer, and subsequent journey.  Through sharp witted humor and effective writing, he is able to answer the question that many wonder:  “What would it be like to have brain cancer?”

Pre-Op MRI

This is Lee’s brain at diagnosis.  You can see that he has a large tumor covering a quarter of the image.  Some early indicators of the disease were headaches, confusion and communication issues. 

July 28, 2009

 July ’09,  his scan shows some burns from radiation, but an absence of the tumor.

His wife, Dana, shares her perspective, fears and challenges with respect to Lee’s journey as his “rock” and caregiver, adding more color to Lee’s journey.

Brain cancer is a tough competitor, but it can be fought- Lee has the pictures to prove it.

Sep 23
Category: Survivor Stories
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Written By: Imerman Angels @ 4:03 pm

 

Continued from September 16th, 2009…

We exchanged numbers, but never called one another.  By pure coincidence, we ran into each other at an Imerman Angels event.  We laughed over the fact that we had both hung onto each other’s phone numbers and that we should have used them.  Ever since then, we have been there for each other.  We go out, we share intimate worries about recurrence and mentally surviving cancer.  As I had looked to Laura for hope, she turned to me for some as well.  Things had come full circle.

Jennie Grimes was planning to come to our wedding on July 4, 2009.  Anupam and I had a small, very romantic wedding on a cliff overlooking the ocean on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico.  It was the biggest celebration of life and love that I’ve ever witnessed.  The jubilant energy at the Dacha House was infectious!  No one could have ever imagined that my life would turn out so differently.  I’ve never felt so much love or happiness! 

Jonny Imerman and many others who made my healing possible, smiled from ear to ear.  Having been party to bubbles, and beaches, and beauty all around while they witnessed this cancer nightmare turn into a fairytale.  We will be celebrating my two year survival mark this August.

Jennie was diagnosed one week prior to our departure with Stage 3, Uterine Cancer.  She, obviously, was unable to make it to our celebration.  It is theorized that this tumor was most likely a side effect of the drug Tamoxofin.  An oncologist prescribes the drug, in order to prevent Estrogen Receptor Positive cancer from recurring. While she faces another battle with cancer, she knows that she has “Angels” all around her.  Jonny, Laura, and I will never let go. 

 We exchanged numbers, but never called one another.  By pure coincidence, we ran into each other at an Imerman Angels event.  We laughed over the fact that we had both hung onto each other’s phone numbers and that we should have used them.  Ever since then, we have been there for each other.  We go out, we share intimate worries about recurrence and mentally surviving cancer.  As I had looked to Laura for hope, she turned to me for some as well.  Things had come full circle.

Jennie Grimes was planning to come to our wedding on July 4, 2009.  Anupam and I had a small, very romantic wedding on a cliff overlooking the ocean on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico.  It was the biggest celebration of life and love that I’ve ever witnessed.  The jubilant energy at the Dacha House was infectious!  No one could have ever imagined that my life would turn out so differently.  I’ve never felt so much love or happiness! 

Jonny Imerman and many others who made my healing possible, smiled from ear to ear.  Having been party to bubbles, and beaches, and beauty all around while they witnessed this cancer nightmare turn into a fairytale.  We will be celebrating my two year survival mark this August.

Jennie was diagnosed one week prior to our departure with Stage 3, Uterine Cancer.  She, obviously, was unable to make it to our celebration.  It is theorized that this tumor was most likely a side effect of the drug Tamoxofin.  An oncologist prescribes the drug, in order to prevent Estrogen Receptor Positive cancer from recurring. While she faces another battle with cancer, she knows that she has “Angels” all around her.  Jonny, Laura, and I will never let go.

Jessica finding out that she is one year cancer-free!

Jessica finding out that she is one year cancer-free!

Special thanks to Jessica for sharing her story with us!

Sep 16
Category: Survivor Stories
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Written By: Imerman Angels @ 2:03 pm

Jessican D'AndreaRead on as Jessica shares her experience in meeting Laura Alexander, a Cancer survivor with Imerman Angels…
I sat and listened to this extremely brave woman tell her story.  The tears came even harder as I empathized with her every word.  We were the same age, we had the same type of cancer, and we lived in the same city.  She looked healthy and strong and determined to live.  Without even having ever met her, I wanted to be like her.  She had her life back, her health back, and all of her hair.

When I called the Imerman Angels office, Jonny Imerman answered.  I told him about my story.  I told him that some of my closest friends, but not all of them, had deserted me.  No one knew what to do or what to say.  I was hurt, lonely and lost.  He took detailed notes and he asked to meet me at a restaurant overlooking the Chicago River, one gorgeous September day in 2007.  I dressed up and did my hair for one of the last times and went not knowing what to expect.  All I knew was that, I could not possibly go on crying six hours a day and that someone needed to help me!

We talked for three hours and he quickly started making mental notes about my personality, my cancer diagnosis, and my needs.  By the end of the lunch, which I couldn’t eat, he told me that he had the perfect girl!  When he mentioned that this woman, Laura Alexander, who also had Stage 2 breast cancer, I smiled.  Not only did she come to my rescue, but the entire group of “Angels”, as they call themselves, showed up too!  I was surrounded with support.

Needless to say, many things happened over the next nine months.  I had to go through losing my hair, four months of chemo, two months of radiation and a break up.  Throughout it all, Laura was right there next to me.  She was on the phone, whenever I needed her, and she met me for lunch regularly.  Of course, we volunteered and spoke at many Imerman Angels events together.  She kept me smiling, and every time that I saw her, I knew that I could do this.  I would heal and I would survive!  Imerman Angels gave me so much hope that I became an outspoken advocate for IA ever since.

I met the love of my life one week before I started chemo. Everyone always wants to know, “where did you meet him?”  I always think it ironic, that we met at a bar/restaurant in Wicker Park called Moonshine.  He is a doctor and he seemed very interested in securing my wellness.  We laughed and cried and just connected in every way, shape and form.  He encouraged me to continue with my everyday life and keep fronting my band, Fly Over State.  He said that keeping my creative flow going throughout the next year would be imperative to maintaining balance and, of course, help keep my mind off of things. He introduced me to meditation and breathing.  He encouraged me to eat foods with a better nutritive value, and he gave me great advice on how to maintain my health during treatments, and he was right.  I never got sick.  My energy level was great and somehow I stayed rather positive and radiant during treatments.  I practiced yoga and went for long walks on the same day as chemo treatments.  I made myself triple and quadruple my vegetable and fruit intake, organic of course and I made every effort to consume organic meats at least once a day.  For every blood test, I had a normal white blood cell count.  I felt great and even with my lopsided wig, which was donated by coutureforcancer.org, I looked great.  Every day felt like a gift.

Finally, the ordeal ended.  The treatments stopped.  My little hairs started to grow like a new baby and we waited six months for my follow up mammogram.  I began dating the doctor, Anupam Ted Kedia, and we fell madly, into a deep love.  He wanted to marry me as soon as possible, but first things first.

We entered Northwestern wearing matching Imerman Angels t-shirts and matching smiles when I found out that YES! INDEED!  I WAS CANCER FREE!!!!  The picture tells it all!

We made our way over to a restaurant to celebrate and it was there that a young, beautiful girl approached us.  She said, “I’ve heard really great things about Imerman Angels and Jonny.”  I launched into the whole story and how I just found out that I am CANCER FREE!  She congratulated me and then shared her story.  She was just 28 and newly diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer.  She was in chemotherapy, in the same nightmare I had just experienced.  She felt very alone and isolated.  Her hair was still in tact and she looked as healthy and gorgeous as any other beautiful blonde.  She wondered if the chemo was even working. She had no signs of cancer, but she was in the midst of the fight of her life…

Check in for the final installment of Jessica’s story!

Sep 9
Category: Survivor Stories
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Written By: Imerman Angels @ 5:09 pm
Jessica, her husband and Jonny.

Jessica D'Andrea (middle)

My stomach was clenched in six different places.  My heart was beating like it does right before it stops.  I was wondering if my mind could race any faster.  This was how it felt at the end of the eight-hour day of mammograms, ultrasounds and several biopsies.

The breast screening area was filled with at least fifty women.  Many of them were quite older than my 34 years.  Why was I here?  It was probably nothing but a calcification.  I tried desperately to console myself as each test went by.  I refused to look for hours until I happened to peek during one of my mid morning ultrasounds.  There she was.  My doctor had her ultrasound wand firmly placed on my right breast with her eyes closed and her mouth moving in what seemed to be a quick prayer to God.  I knew things were growing more serious as they explained that they needed to do a biopsy.  No one made a sound in the room.  They knew.  Everyone in the room knew.  It was cold and sterile and very lonely back there.

I walked out to the waiting room where my sister, her three kids, and my mom were waiting that Friday.  We assumed that I would be free to shop for my sister’s birthday after my “quick” mammogram.  My internist had just found a lump five days prior during a routine check up.  I didn’t feel sick.  I didn’t look sick and this had never been in my family.  I had just grown my blonde hair to my shoulders.  I had worked out every day since I was 18 and I ate all of the right foods.  I had no idea how this had happened.  After a long weekend of wondering if I had cancer, if I would die from cancer, if I would lose my breast to cancer, if anyone would want me during or after the treatments, the phone call came from Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.  “You have small breast cancer,” someone on the other end of the phone said.  I collapsed and began to shake and cry.  My mouth uttered these words to my mom, my dad, who went  into cardiac arrest, my sister, and my on again, off again boyfriend.  Phone calls were made and appointments were desperately sought after.  Waiting lists were long.  Many women had to wait four months to even get a consultation, but somehow I got in because someone had just cancelled.

They arm you with one hundred pamphlets, and surgical advice, and a litany of tests, which needed to be completed before they can perform any sort of lumpectomy or mastectomy.  What the docs can’t give you is information on how to move forward, emotionally.  I began sobbing when they told me that I might not be able to have children, that the IVF treatments could spread my cancer, that my hair would fall out, my skin would change colors, and my weight might change.  My entire world as I knew it was over, in a matter of one week. 

When I got home, I scoured the Internet for everything or anything that might help me understand what was about to happen.  I looked up and down for information on chemotherapy, radiation, fertility treatment options, and I wanted to know a lot about my hair.  My hair seemed to be the most devastating news, next to having breast cancer, of course.  I came up with only negative accounts of chemotherapy treatments, rants about radiation burning holes through skin, and long lasting side effects of medications.  Everything was pointing towards doom.  My depression was deep.  My sadness was palpable. I wore it like a sagging sweater.  My eyes were dark and I actually had stress lines on my face that would not go away. 

A friend of mine, Jeff Brunstein, having heard of my predicament, had happened to be speaking with a friend at the East Bank Club, when he was told about Imerman Angels.  The IA pamphlet, literally, blew into his lap at the rooftop pool and he just laughed!  “What crazy luck!”  He then dropped it off at my house.  We exchanged hugs and I went inside to lie down.

Eventually I made my way to the kitchen table where my “cancer research” was conducted.  I went on the Imerman Angel’s site and clicked on the “testimonials.”  I happen to click on a woman named, Laura Alexander….

 

(Jessica’s story will continue September 16th.  Check back to hear about her first meeting with Laura and stay tuned for more true stories of CANCER SURVIVORS and PAIR UPS in our series.)

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