After a flurry of inconclusive tests following the self-discovery of a lump in my neck in June of 2007 (which my then-internist thought was a lymph node), I continued on my merry way. Fortunately, I have an excellent dentist, who, when I called his attention to the lump at my regular cleaning in July, suggested that I see an ENT. Unbeknownst to me, he suspected that I had lymphoma.
A CT scan quickly followed my first visit to the ENT and a definitive tumor growing in my parotid gland was identified. Surgery took place in September by Dr. Richard Arden, an outstanding ENT possessing additional skills as a plastic surgeon. Epithelial myoepithelial cancer (fortunately, stage one) was lurking in that tumor. So NOT what I was expecting to hear!
While waiting for the recommended seven weeks of radiation treatments to commence, I read an article about Imerman Angels in my school’s Tradition magazine. Just what the “doctor ordered!” I quickly sent off an email and, to my surprise – a GOOD one, this time, – I received, in typical Jonny fashion, an email written all in caps! Jon was a former student of mine (an intervening name change prevented my initial recognition of this fact)!! That was the turning point for me to begin to feel like this journey was going to turn out okay.
Jon paired me with a parotid gland cancer survivor named Tim. He was truly an angel as he guided me through my fear of the treatment side effects, which were the “icing” on the dark spot in my heart. I had CANCER! The underlying message of all of Tim’s tips for dealing with the sore throat, lesions in my mouth, dry mouth, loss of taste, nausea, etc., was HOPE! He was my beacon in the darkest of days. If he came through this journey, safe on the other side, I could do it, too!
I just “passed” my two year MRI a couple of weeks ago – stable. Who would have ever thought that those six letters could hold such meaning? Miles Levin was a young man who could not overcome his own battle with cancer –rhabdosarcoma. However, during his journey, he started a blog, read by legions of faithful followers, myself included. He even appeared on Anderson Cooper’s show. Miles said that “cancer is an ugly blessing.” That phrase resonated with me then and still does now. It allowed me to see the blessings that came with my diagnosis and trip through cancer world.
As I now mentor other cancer fighters as a volunteer through Imerman Angels, I often find blessings in the new friendships I make and through the powerful, powerful connection of survivor to fighter. I would have NEVER experienced this intensity of association with another person were it not for the cancer which led me to Jon and his INCREDIBLE organization. Thank you, Jon, for the gift you have given to all of us. I love you!
- Blakely Lauria (Steering Committee), JI, Arlyce Seibert (Dir. of Cranbrook Schools), Jamie Reif (Local IA Volunteer), Sarah Jacobs (Co-Chair), Anne Tremain (Steering Committee), Cec Strine
Cranbrook Schools of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan held their first annual cancer solidarity walk on Sunday, September 27th. Jonny shared that, following the event, many people approached him for more information on Imerman Angels’ 1-on-1 match up service for friends and family fighting cancer. This is what we are all about!
Cec Strine, event Co-Chair, called the event a success. Both she and Jonny spoke and shared their messages of hope (pictured below). Even her grandson, Austin (below), turned out for the event and displayed IA pride!
One of IA's youngest supporters.
Cec (above) is a cancer survivor and Imerman survivor angel!
Following the event, Cranbrook allowed Jonny the opportunity to speak to health classes and the football team to educate them about young adults with cancer.
Cec Strine, teacher at Cranbrook Schools Brookside of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, can speak to the impact of community support on an individual. As a salivary cancer survivor, she shared with me the importance of the Cranbrook family, as she took the disease head on:
“The extended Cranbrook family supported us so much. People that you didn’t even know about… who quietly had cancer.”
Joining together with Sarah Jacobs, an alum, parent and breast cancer survivor, the two created an idea: a victory lap against cancer around Kingswood Lake.
Tomorrow, September 27th, will be the first annual “Cranbrook Envisions a Cure Walk” sponsored by the school’s Cross Country Team. Like many things, this event has been a community effort. From the event logo (designed by a 6th grader within the school system) to the preparation for the big day, this has been yet another project where Cranbrook students, faculty, parents, grandparents, alumni and friends were able to join forces.
Cec is close to the Imerman Community for several reasons. Not only was she a teacher of Jonny, who attended Cranbrook as a student, but she also participated in a 1-on-1 pair-up relationship through IA. Tomorrow, she will be walking in memory of her mother to: pay tribute to those battling cancer, support research for a cure, and celebrate life. JI is excited to be amongst those attending, as well as a featured speaker.
“I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands. You need to be able to throw something back.”- Maya Angelou.
Cec shared that this (above) has touched her through her cancer journey. Though cancer is an ugly disease, she had found that it was also a blessing in disguise and an opportunity for her to give back to those who had shown her love and support. The cancer walk is the perfect opportunity to come out for Cranbrook, Cec, and those fighting cancer all around the country. Stop in and cheer on the walkers!
Optional donations will be made to Imerman Angels.