I’m 33 years old and I was diagnosed with neuroendocrine cancer in my lung and liver almost 2 years ago (my liver had 14 tumors.) I’ve undergone numerous surgeries and different kinds of treatments and have currently received chemo (3 days in a row every 21 days) for the last 9 months. I was always an active person. After I was diagnosed I tried to continue running and lifting weights as much as possible. For quite a while I was able to keep doing it through the treatments, but than about a year ago I couldn’t continue. I normally weighed about 185-195lbs and within a few months I had gotten down to 153lbs and had trouble walking even 4 city blocks. Than right before I started chemo I got so tired of sitting around that I thought “I don’t care how bad of shape I’m in, how badly I feel or how hard it is, I’m going to get up everyday and lift weights or run!” It was very difficult at the beginning knowing how much I used to weigh, how strong I used to be and how far I used to run but I did it! Everyday I either lifted weights or ran! Now, after enduring 9 months of chemo and counting I’ve still continued doing it and I feel great! I eat extremely healthy, lift weights or run everyday, have almost zero side effects from the chemo and I’m not even taking any medication (even for nausea!) Best of all, I started doing the strength training workouts that I used to do in college with a couple of my friends that played football for Arizona State University and I’m now back up to 191lbs at approximately 8% bodyfat and my strength has gone through the roof! I’m still undergoing chemo AND still manage to workout everyday! Even on the 3 days that I actually get chemo, I leave my doctors office and go straight to the gym and run! I’m still fighting cancer but everyday I get a little stronger and I run a little farther. There’s no doubt in my mind that I’m gonna beat this, its just a question of when!
I stay positive by simply going outside. Over the course of my life I have realized that if I can just convince myself to put down my work, life, tv, book or car and force myself to wander into the outdoors I will be completely present and the worries of everyday life seem to fade. I attribute so much of this to the fact that nature doesn’t care about my troubles, my work or my challenges. She treats me the same as everyone and everything else that comes along. There is something very rewarding about that. Because of this I have spent the better part of my life fishing, hiking, camping, kayaking, skiing, hunting or just simply sitting outside. When I’m there, I’m present and when I’m present, troubles are not.
It is for these reasons that I started First Descents. I wanted to create an outlet to share the positivity the outdoors brought to my life with others whose troubles were probably far greater than mine and their access to being outside might not be as available as mine. I figured that if nature treated everyone the same and that treatment could provide a place free of troubles then maybe young adults with cancer could really benefit from being out there together.
At the end of the day it’s not always the easiest thing to do- force yourself to leave life as you know it and go outside, but I can say that I have never regretted my decision to go and always come back a happier, healthier, fuller and more present version of myself that I was before I left.
Young adult? Got cancer? Get outside! First Descents has free spots available on a variety of outdoor adventures. Check out www.firstdescents.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details!
My name is Jeremy Weisbach, I am 28 years old and I have type 1 diabetes. I am the founder of Jimmy Insulin, a 1 on 1 diabetes support non-profit organization. Today, I proudly say that I am a diabetic. However, I didn’t feel this way my whole life and I’d like to explain why…
It was summer time in 1990. I was 9 years old and trying to be normal and fit in, like all kids hope to do. I was playing in a neighborhood baseball league and attending Banner day camp. All of a sudden, I started getting headaches. They became increasingly more frequent. My parents and I started noticing peculiar symptoms. I was drinking and urinating excessively. I was sleeping in and waking up in the afternoon. I was having severe mood swings. Something was going on…
Monday, July 30, 1990, I was at Banner Day camp. My brother and sister were going to camp there as well. My brother threw up and the nurses called my mom to get him. My mom came and picked up my brother, Jonathan, my sister, Marni, and I, and took us all to the doctor. At the doctor’s office, they took a urine sample from me. On the way out of the office, I went to grab a sucker like I always did when I visited the doctor. Right before I got my hand on the sucker, a nurse put her hand right over the bowl and said I couldn’t have one. She was stern and unmoving. At that moment, I was in shock. I was dumfounded that this lady not let me have a sucker…she’s not my parent. I got very confused…
Then my world changed forever. My mother seemed very upset. We were going home, but I was going to have to go to the hospital. I remember packing a suitcase with my mom and then going to Lutheran General Hospital. They ran some tests. The doctor came in and officially diagnosed me with diabetes. What’s diabetes??? I asked. Then the questions poured out. What does it mean? Why did I get it? What will I have to do with it??? I was completely lost…and so was my mom.
The doctors told me that diabetes meant I had to follow a meal plan, take medication, and exercise regularly. I was only 9 and felt like my life was ruined. That night I asked my mom why this happened to me and we both cried…
My mom never left the hospital. It seemed like I was at Lutheran General forever. Friends and family came to visit daily. I had great support. I spent about a week there before getting released. The day after I got released, my mom let me return to camp. Now, I had to carry a fanny pack with me. Inside the fanny pack was my glucometer, a juice box, peanut butter crackers, and insulin. I hated wearing it. It made me feel different. Upon my return to camp, one of my best friends came up to my mom and said she had nothing to worry about and that he would take care of me. That was the first time my mom felt relief since the diagnosis. Today, that friend is a doctor.
Growing up with diabetes was tough. I ignored and neglected the diabetes. I didn’t accept the fact that I had diabetes. I felt very depressed and isolated from the world. I didn’t feel that I should have it. Why me?? None of my friends or family had diabetes. I fought it. I refused to acknowledge it or the lifestyle changes I would have to make. I had continued support from my family, friends, and doctors but I wouldn’t accept their support. I felt they didn’t know what I was going through. My endocrinologist didn’t have diabetes, either. How could they give me advice when they didn’t know firsthand what I was going through: no one understood me. No one could help me find my way through the nightmare of Juvenile Diabetes. I survived despite myself.
Through the years of neglect, I had several close calls. I was kicked out of overnight camp at the age of 12 because of lack of control. I was forced to leave just four days before the end. I missed all the parties and special good-byes. It was traumatic. I had a diabetic seizure when I was 14. My mother saved my life by coming into my room and calling 911. On New Years Eve 2000, I partied too much. I got home shortly after midnight, threw up constantly from drinking too much and my blood sugar went dangerously low. I was rushed to the emergency room. In January 2001, I was staying with my grandmother in Oak Park. I had a diabetic seizure and woke up in the hospital. My grandmother saved my life. In college, my roommates would have to monitor my blood sugars because I would get so drunk I didn’t know what was going on. I thank G-d my best friend was sober 24/7 because he saved my life on multiple occasions.
I have had many close calls. It wasn’t until after college that I came to the realization that I was risking damage to myself that I might not be able to undo. After several interventions, a good family friend of mine, Dr. Stewart Segal, got through to me. He said I had to start taking my life seriously or lose it. I had to take care of myself and properly manage my diabetes. I was getting on the right path. I quit drinking and finally accepted the disease and learned how to manage it to keep it in control. I have not had an emergency room visit or seizure since graduating college. I feel very happy and grateful to be alive today. I thank all my friends, family, doctors, and close ones throughout the years. Without them, I wouldn’t be here today to tell my story.
Recently I realized what was missing during my early years as a diabetic. I never had a buddy to talk to who was going through the same thing I was going through-someone I could ask questions of and seek answers from. Most importantly, I needed someone who had diabetes that I could trust and that I could relate to. My family, my friends, and my doctors, were great, but none of them had diabetes. The direct connection was missing.
In 2008, inspired by Imerman Angels and encouraged by Jonny Imerman, “Jimmy Insulin” was born. No longer would a diabetic have to feel the isolation of growing up with the disease alone! Jimmy Insulin believes one on one support is essential for the physical, mental, social, and emotional well being of diabetics. Jimmy Insulin will mentor the new diabetic into his or her new world. Jimmy Insulin will provide this free service to diabetics and their close ones. Diabetics can now find a better way to transition and live in their new world by linking to those diabetics who survived it. Jimmy Insulin exists to guide diabetics and their close ones through this journey.
If you or anyone you know or meet has been touched by diabetes, please refer them to Jimmy Insulin. We would love to get them connected!
Jeremy Weisbach, 312-515-3353, email@example.com
The Cancer Lifestyle
By Matthew Zachary
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Food For Thought.
I saw a huge billboard in NYC advertising for this website
Instead of ‘how a bill becomes a law’ I kept exploring the whole idea of
‘how a death sentence becomes a chronic condition’, not focusing on ‘why’
(public policy, medicine, prevention) but rather focusing, specifically, on
‘what next?’, i.e. the aftermath of social and cultural change that follows.
When a disease transforms from death sentence to chronic condition, does
this represent a tipping point for social change, fostering the genesis of
an entirely new, underserved demographic whose lifestyle and psychographic
behaviors hold the key to better serving their unique socioeconomic,
political and cultural needs through the balance of their extended
Does the early identification of this emerging population constitute fertile
opportunity for innovative ventures in social entrepreneurship that can
effectively address and identify these unique needs though moral and ethical
exploration both social (market research) and clinical (population science)?
Example: Diabetes and HIV were once a death sentence. Today they are chronic
conditions [in the US] which have been culturally desensitized and socially
destigmatized into the mainstream. The focus is no longer specifically our
favorite word ‘cure’ because death and suffering have, more or less, been
marginalized to the best extent that can be.
Progress not cure has yielded the need for MyHIVLife.com.
After all, “Living with it” is better than the alternative, right?
Is cancer in the United States following a similar trend?
I know it is. It already has.
Many doctors currently shy away from the word ‘cure’ even though it’s an
acknowledged scientific term with a Webster’s definition. It’s about
“survivorship” now, the quality and not necessarily quantity of your
How many “MyHIVLife.com”-type websites are there for cancer these days?
They’re popping up every day, raising public awareness, discussing the
‘lifestyle’ of what vigilant self-advocacy we as survivors must undertake
simply by living with, through and, hopefully, beyond our diagnosis.
And the word “beyond” is even losing meaning. Being told “you’re cured” is
not the end of story and, as too many already know, cancer can be the gift
that keeps on giving.
So the “survivorship” is the cancer lifestyle. What does it mean to be a
cancer patient? A suvivor? A caregiver? Especially if you’re under 40?
But that’s a whole other rant.
Food for thought.
Matthew Zachary is the Founder and CEO of I’m Too Young for This, the nation’s leading grassroots advocate for the next generation of cancer survivors and their caregivers in their late teens, 20s and 30s. A TIME Magazine Best 50 Website for 2007, they have helped bring the cause of ‘cancer under 40′ to the national spotlight and rallied a brand new generation of activists to ensure prompt detection, advocacy, research and support for this forgotten population.