Tuesday, March 31, 2009
As you can imagine, I am asked on a weekly basis to support a certain cause. I am not a wealthy man by any stretch of the imagination, but I have always given when I can. If it means giving up a coffee during the week or a dinner out with Meg...we would rather have it that way. We are both dedicated to making a difference in this world and will do whatever/whenever we can. That being said, we do struggle with not being able to do and/or donate more. We both said that if we ever won the lottery, we would pay off our debts, donate to charity and save enough so that we could give up our jobs and volunteer for a living.
We are aware of our financial limitations so we do everything we can to give back in other ways. For starters, Meg works her ass off at the American Cancer Society and she is training for a triathlon and fundraising for her mom who is battling stage 3c Ovarian cancer. I am not lucky enough to draw a paycheck for my cancer work, but I do volunteer and fundraise for LAF, Imerman Angels, and Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I also do quite a bit of public speaking for LLS about my experience with cancer. I am also the president of the CancerClimber Association and actively spread the word about iy, Vital Options, Ulman Fund, No Stigmas, St. Judes, Tigerlily Foundation, among a few others.
I am not stating that to impress you. I state that to challenge you. There are many ways we can give back to whatever it is that we are passionate about. It is not always about money. You can donate your time, talent and resources and make a difference in people's lives. In 2009, I wanted to challenge myself and give back in a new way. I wanted to get more involved in the lives of those who are currently battling cancer. One part selfish and a hundred parts altruistic. Perhaps I am trying to make up for time lost when I had a hard time talking about my cancer experience, but nevertheless, I have already improved by leaps and bounds...you know how much that cost me? Nothing.
Find your passion and find a way to give back. Donations are fantastic and a total necessity to fund a cure, but times are tough, if you can't give any money, dig deep and find a way to give back. It may mean more to the people you are talking to than a simple donation. LiveSTRONG, Be Well, and Keep Climbing!
15 year Burkitt's NHL survivor
President, CancerClimber Association
Chicago LiveSTRONG Army Co-Leader (Melissa Wilhelm Rocks)
7 year LLS fundraiser and volunteer
Friday, March 27, 2009
What I hope to do in the next few paragraphs is to explain auto insurance in an easy to understand way. I will start with your Liability limits. In IL, the minimum is $20,000 per person and $40,000 per occurrence with 15,000 in property damage. What this means to you is that if you get into an accident and cause serious bodily injury to the other people, the insurance company would pay just that...only $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident. That third number is the property damage...total two $50,000 BMWs....the insurance company pays $15,000, you pay $85,000. Scary right? If someone has to go through 5 years of intense rehab or God forbid they are hospitalized for years...$20,000 is chump change. The minimum coverage that I recommend is $100,000 per person, $300,000 per accident and $100,000 property damage.
Other coverages you need to look at..Medical payments coverage. You may have this on your auto policy and not need it. A lot of this will depend on your health benefits at work. Do you have a high deductible at work? If so, maybe you want to include this, but if you have fantastic coverage at work and rarely drive around with people who do not have insurance, then you could forgo the coverage. It does provide coverage for people riding in your car.
Do you need the car in the event it cannot be driven as the result of an accident? You definitely need to add rental reimbursement. This will provide you a car for up to 30 days. As for rental cars, in most states, you can decline the coverage if you are out of town and renting a car. Your personal coverage will kick in provided you have full coverage. That being said, if you do damage the rental car, you will be responsible for the deductible..unless you buy their plan. Kind of a personal choice. Do you pay the extra $20 per day for peace of mind knowing you won't have to file a claim with your insurance company, or do you save the money knowing your policy will cover you subject to your deductibles? I always forgo the rental car insurance, but I am a risk taker :)
I think that is a quick synopsis of auto insurance. Hopefully I did not bore you to death cause we all know insurance is not fun. It is my career and I am damn knowledgeable about it, but it is definitely not my passion like cancer advocacy, fundraising and research are...that being said, I care about people being properly protected and would hate for someone to talk to an 800# and be sold the cheapest coverage without knowing what they have. If you ever have any questions, you can email me at email@example.com or call 312.787.0221
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
I just wanted to share some numbers to put this whole cancer endemic in perspective:
There are more than 10.5 million cancer survivors living in the United States today. This number has more than tripled in the past 30 years. The number of survivors will grow as the population ages and progress against cancer continues.
Incidence and mortality
1.4 million Americans are expected to be diagnosed with cancer this year.
560,000 Americans are expected to die from cancer this year, or more than 1,500 per day.
Nearly 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will develop cancer during their lifetime.
Within the next decade, cancer is likely to replace heart disease as the leading cause of death in the U.S. It is already the biggest killer of those under the age of 85.
Today 65% of adults diagnosed with cancer will be alive five years after diagnosis, up from 50% in the 1970s.
African-American men and women have the highest mortality rates for all cancer sites combined.
While dramatic survival improvements have been achieved in patients diagnosed with cancer at age 15 or younger and steady improvement has been made against a number of cancers common among those over age 40, little or no progress has been seen in the adolescent and young adult population. In fact, among those aged 25 to 35 years, survival has not improved in more than two decades.
Cancer costs and insurance coverage
The overall cost for cancer last year was $206 billion, which includes $78 billion for medical bills, $18 billion for lost productivity from the illness, and $110 billion due to lost productivity from premature death.17% of Americans younger than age 65 have no health insurance coverage and 24% of Americans age 65 or older only have Medicare
Keep in mind these stats are for the United States alone! Globally, twelve million people this year will hear the words...you have cancer. Eight million people globally will lose their battle with this disease and cancer will kill more people globally than TB, Malaria, and AIDS combined!!
Friday, March 20, 2009
After taking the summer off and the next semester I returned to school. Now, the last thing a 19 year old wants to talk about is cancer. I resumed a "normal" college life and rarely spoke about my cancer diagnosis. I graduated in 1998, a year later than I had planned, but cancer happens. After college, I still rarely spoke about my cancer. The National Institutes of Health where I was treated asked me to talk to the children that were battling cancer. I was scared to death and only did it once. Why you may ask? I felt guilty. I know it sounds crazy, but I really felt guilty that I had beaten cancer and here these kids were battling the same thing that I went through and there were no guarantees they would survive. As odd as it sounds, I felt like I should be the one sick and they should be cancer free.
A few years after graduation, I got a double whammy. My aunt, who had already beaten throat cancer was diagnosed with Leukemia. Bad enough, I was visiting some friends in Richmond and we were heading to a bar. My buddy was having some serious issues with his eye, it was closing and he could not open it on his own. I told him that he should get it checked out, just based on what I had been through. He did...and he was diagnosed with NHL as well. The crazy thing about it is that Ryan went to High School with me. We had a graduating class of 23. What are the odds that TWO of those 23 would be diagnosed with cancer? I told myself that I would be there for Aunt Joan and Ryan during their treatments. To a certain extent I was. I visited Ryan a few times and talked to him on the phone during treatment, but it was really difficult for me. Again, that lingering feeling of guilt.
I wanted nothing more than for Ryan to be healthy and to beat this damn disease, but I really didn't know what to say sometimes. Shit, I had already beat the disease, what am I supposed to say? I felt guilty once again. Clearly, I was dealing with my own survivorship issues while Ryan was going through treatment. Sadly Ryan lost his battle with cancer. Ryan changed my life forever. His death hit me really hard, I remember the funeral like it was yesterday. He was surrounded by friends and family and still I felt like I had somehow let him down. Of course I realize now that I did everything I could to talk to him and support him but it felt so different back then. I remember at the "Irish Wake" I said something to my friends that I was going to do something in his memory. I never really knew that his passing would change my life forever.
Shortly after his passing, I did a century bike ride for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team in Training Program. I did it in memory of Ryan and in honor of Aunt Joan who was still battling cancer. I will never forget this moment...coming down the final hill and seeing the finish line, I had to pull over to the side of the road because I was overcome with tears. This was my epiphany moment. They were both tears of sadness and joy. I was sad that Ryan had lost his battle and that my Aunt was fighting hers, but happy that I realized at that point that it was OK to be a survivor and that I shouldn't feel any guilt. That was June of 2002.
Sadly, my aunt lost her battle in early 2004, but her passing just reinforced what I figured out with Ryan. Since 2002, I have done everything in my power to make up for lost time. I want to talk to everyone diagnosed with cancer and help in anyway possible. I want to raise money for cancer research so that other people don't lose loved ones like I have. I want to lobby our government so that they make cancer a national priority. I want everyone to have hope and know that cancer is no longer a death sentence, people are not only beating the disease, but thriving after cancer.
This brings me to the title of the blog. There is no handbook for life after cancer. I have learned this the hard way. I had no direction in my life after my diagnosis. There was no Lance Armstrong back then. Cancer still had that negative connotation and stigma attached. Thankfully with people like Lance and my good friend Sean Swarner, the stigmas are not as bad. Are they there? Of course they are, but sadly cancer has become so prevalent with 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women being diagnosed in their lifetime that we have so many more resources at hand. With that being said, I wanted to post some links below for some amazing non-profits out there. If the majority of these had been around when I was diagnosed, who knows how that would have changed my life. The good news is that they are here now, and amazing as always. Thanks for taking the time to read.
LiveSTRONG, Be Well, and Keep Climbing!
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
So....I sit here filling out NCAA brackets and cannot help but think about a conversation I had last night with a friend. It wasn't just the conversation we had over Facebook, but the hope and inspiration this young man is giving to so many.
The irony about the whole thing is that I am not entirely sure he realizes that he inspires us. He is a young man battling a rare form of cancer. For his own privacy, I won't mention his name, but this is one tough cookie with an amazing head on his shoulders. He truly defines what it means to liveSTRONG and I really find inspiration in him daily. Most people think that as a 15 year survivor that inspiration comes easy to me, but reality is that sometimes I do get caught up with everyday life and find myself thinking about what I had been through and why am I letting the little things get to me.... That is where this young man comes into play. He has truly changed my life and I am not sure I can truly articulate what he has meant to me.
Truth be told, he has challenged me and made me a better person. When he gets better, I made a promise to him...His dream is to complete an Ironman Triathlon, and I promised that I would do this with him. Now, those who know me, have to know that I loathe running. I can swim 2.4 miles and bike 112 miles, no problem. A marathon actually scares the shit out of me. A marathon after a 2.4 mile swim and 112 mile bike ride, to me seems almost unimaginable. This is exactly what I need, someone to push me and tell me that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.
Do I know this? Of course I do, but does it help to have a daily reminder? Damn right. I cherish the moments, as brief as they may be that he and I share. So why do I share this with you? I know many of you are in the same situation and have someone that you care for battling this deadly disease in one form or another, so my hope is that you will look and listen to what this person is going through and build upon it. My work with cancer advocacy and research is both altruistic and selfish. Altruistic in that I love to give hope, inspire, and raise money for a cure, but selfish because I find it therapuetic. Is that Bad? Of course not, we all deal with cancer in our own way. I thoroughly enjoy talking to people touched by cancer in hopes that I can truly make a difference in their lives. We all deal with our survivorship issues on our own terms. I should know, it took me close to six years and the loss of a friend from cancer to even talk about it. Now, I can't shut up about it.
I guess all that I am trying to say is that we have to cherish the moments that make a difference in our lives because I could use every cliche to talk about how life is short, etc.. but truth be told...life is short and we should really enjoy each day that we have on this earth and do whatever we can to help others and make a difference in their lives. In doing so...they just may have a profound impact on your lives. Life is funny like that
Thanks for reading.
Livestrong, be well, and Keep Climibing!