The cancer community is full of stories of fighters that overcome even the greatest challenges, and our Programs Manager, Jemma, is no exception. First diagnosed with cancer at the age of 23, and again for the second time at 24, Jemma rose to the challenge and beat both by the age of 25. You could say she was her own “healer” in the process, using her own stem cells to save her life through an Autologus Stem Cell Transplant.
Her battle left her stronger, not weaker, which is clear to see through her previous work. She has dedicated her life to cancer advocacy. Jemma began her work as a volunteer with the American Cancer Society for 9 years. There she has contributed in several ways from bringing passion to the organization through meeting with political leaders about cancer issues to speaking at various events. A champion for life, Jemma confided that the organization was meaningful enough to her that she wrote them into her will.
In 2007, Jemma met Jonny at an Imerman Angels event, and the rest is history! She became a Mentor Angel in 2009, sharing her experience with other cancer fighters through 1-on-1 support relationships, then became a full time staff member in 2011. Managing 6-12 volunteers and staff members, she works around the clock to promote the mission of Imerman Angels while doing her best to give back to the cancer community.
Like we find with many of the cancer survivors in our community, strength, courage, and perseverance seem to be written into Jemma’s DNA. When she is not spending time with her 12 year old son, who she raises as a single parent, she enjoys staying active. 14,000 mountain climbs, 2 half marathons, 2 sprint triathlons, 3 stair climbs, multiple running competitions, whitewater kayaking and CrossFit are just a few things that Jemma has already accomplished.
Although it is the end of January, we wanted to pay homage to Cervical Cancer Awareness Month by sharing one of our favorite Cervical Cancer awareness and survivor stories:
Meaghan’s surgery scars don’t stand a chance against her tattoo!
She has told her story to millions of people all over the country, but it was almost as if she was sharing it for the first time when I spoke with Meaghan Edelstein, the youngest survivor of terminal cervical cancer.
It was 2007 and Meaghan was a 28 year old law student, like anyone else. She noticed some unusual bleeding that led her to several doctors who tested her, scanned her, and advised her that nothing was unusal. As the bleeding and discomfort increased, she knew that something was wrong but no one would listen to her concerns. She was perscribed anti-anxiety, sleeping pills and, finally, szitchoprenia medication to alleviate what others were claiming as feelings resulting from “over stress due to law school”. A desperate night where she nearly cut open her stomach sent Meaghan to the Emergency Room demanding answers. Something was inside of her and she wanted it out. She knew she was dying.
What the tiny cameras did not see, while looking for cysts and tiny tumors during doctor visits, was a giant tumor that was pushing up against her organs. She was diagnosed with 3B terminal cervical cancer and started on her journey though chemo and radiation. Told that she did not have a chance to live, she ignored the recommendation to give up and pushed herself through treatment, greatful to finally be heard: if nothing, she had a diagnosis.
Read the rest of Meaghan’s story here on the Imerman Angels Blog
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/
Bat for the Cure is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that was created to raise awareness about prostate cancer and to educate the public about prevention, detection and treatment. With early detection prostate cancer is 97% curable, but there is not enough awareness to encourage effective prevention. Fans for the Cure was created by Ed Randall, after he went into remission from prostate cancer at the age of 47, and later expanded into the baseball affiliate Bat for the Cure.
Ed is a radio and TV broadcaster for minor league baseball, as well as a cancer survivor. He has taken his cause to the minor league ballparks, with 2011 being his fifth consecutive season of prostate cancer advocacy nationwide. Since the beginning of Bat for the Cure, Ed’s team has been welcomed into more than 500 minor league ballparks.
In 2009 Bat for the Cure joined Big Brothers/Big Sisters, the ALS Foundation and Special Olympics as an Official Charitable Partner of Minor League Baseball. This campaign is the most expansive health care initiative in the history of the minor league.
Minor League Ballparks nationwide have awareness days where they rely on local volunteers to supervise information tables and pass out fliers to fans. The program is especially interested in finding prostate cancer survivors to volunteer in order to provide the best insight into the organization’s message.
Come out and support Bat for the Cure to help give a new meaning to the term “save” in baseball! For more information about the organization and to volunteer visit www.fansforthecure.org.
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“Fighting is a lot easier when your opponent isn’t cancer.”
Lenroy “Cam” Thompson, southpaw counterpuncher and super-heavyweight 2010 USA Boxing National champion, is bringing cancer to the ring by sporting pink gear to show love for the cause after fighting in a breast cancer awareness tournament. Read more in this article from USA Today.