“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.
Join Team Imerman Angels in our biggest race of the year, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.
In 2012, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon sold out in six days. Register today as a Team Imerman Angels athlete. As one of the World Marathon Majors, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon is a premier race for elite runners. Chicago is also a great choice for a first-time marathoner. It is a fast and flat course with over 1.7 million spectators to keep you motivated as you run through 29 of Chicago’s great neighborhoods. On Sunday, October 13, 45,000 runners from all 50 states and more than 100 countries will set out to accomplish this big goal.
Benefits for our Chicago Marathon runners include:
Team Membership in all 2013 Events
- A Team Imerman Angels tech shirt or t-shirt
- A personalized fundraising page with support
- Complimentary marathon training with CARA (Chicago Area Runners Association)
- Access to Chicago Marathon specific events such as our pre-race Pasta Dinner & Post-Race Bash
- The knowledge that all money raised will help provide 1-on-1 support to cancer fighters, survivors, and caregivers
All interested runners are encouraged to register for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon when registration opens on February 19th at 12:00pm CST. This race will sell out quickly this year.
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.
Even though we are well into the New Year, it is still not too late to start your New Year’s resolutions. You have plenty of time to make 2012 a year of living healthy and happy. Here are a few steps you can take to get healthy and stay healthy!
- Protect yourself from the sun: While we are still enduring the chilly winter weather, this precaution may have slipped your mind. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer and the most preventable. ALWAYS wear sunscreen in the summer, especially between 10a.m. and 4p.m. when the sun is the hottest!
- Add 30 minutes of exercise to your day: Whether you go for a walk around the park with your dog, or take a yoga class with a friend, adding exercise to your daily routine can help reduce your risk of cancer. Exercising helps to maintain a healthier weight which lowers your risk of cancers such as prostate, lung and kidney. Physical activity alone may lower risks of breast and colon cancer.
- Eat your fruits and vegetables: We know you hear this all the time, but that’s because it’s true! Any doctor will tell you that by eating more fruits and veggies, and lowering your intake of red meat, salts, and sugary foods will help to reduce your risk.
- Early Detection: We are lucky to have technology that will detect cancer in its earliest stages. Regular self-exams and screening can detect multiple types of cancer, increasing the success of treatment.
- Cut back on alcohol: It is ok to drink in moderation, but consuming alcohol regularly in large amounts can increase your risk of cancer such as: breast, liver, colon, and kidney. While wine contains good antioxidants, you can find the same benefits in grapes as an alternative!
Resources: Mayoclinic http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cancer-prevention/CA00024
Older Posts »
Laurie Grossinger, Gary Grossinger, Brian Weinberg, Ron Stone, Jonny Imerman
Imerman Angels once again partnered with Chicago fashion house AKIRA to host the 8th Annual Garden of Even Fashion Show: Hall of Mirrors, on Sunday, October 2- kicking off Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Grossinger City Autoplex, a state-of-the-art 400,000 square-foot space in Lincoln Park, served as an industrial-chic backdrop for AKIRA’s newest crop of metallic minidresses, shiny blazers, and textured blouses. The gritty glam runway attracted over 3,000 guests who were treated to exciting music from DJ Madrid, AKIRA pop-up shops featuring their most stylish merchandise, live break dancers, and drinks and hors d’oeuvres from the city’s hottest eateries. The night continued as fashion hit the streets for an exclusive afterparty held at Japonais.
The clothing & footwear sponsors who made the night possible included: Wolverine, William Rast, PF Flyers, Original Penguin, AKIRA Black Label, Ben Sherman, Michael Antonio, ZiGi NY, and Jeffrey Campbell. The food and beverage sponsors who generously donated their services for the event included: N9NE Steakhouse, Prasino, Epic, Burger Bar, Barn & Company, Moe’s Cantina, Dos Diablos, 4Rebels, Market, Cabot Creamery, LUNDA, Goose Island, Vitaminwater, Fuze, popchips, and Pirate’s Booty. Upstaging graciously provided the lighting for the show and the Bartenders Group donated bartending staff for the event.
Proceeds from the event go toward our mission to connect cancer fighters with survivors to enable 1-on-1 support.