I have to admit that I find myself in a position that I never would have imagined. I'm a 15 year cancer survivor and have dedicated my life to giving back to the cancer community in every way possible. As most of you know, the CancerClimber Association (CCA) was contacted many months ago by a young 14 year old boy named Jonathan White. CCA was founded by Sean Swarner, a two time cancer survivor who became the first survivor to summit Mt. Everest.
Needless to say, when we heard about this 14 year old who contacted us, we immediately wanted to do everything we could to help. We are not a large organization by any means, but were truly moved by the passion and determination of this young survivor. We could relate to this story on many different levels; Sean and I were both diagnosed in our teens while Gena, a survivor herself could not imagine someone enduring such hardship at a young age. We just really wanted to give hope to a dying boy.
I am writing this because for lack of a better word we have all been duped to one degree or another. I spoke to Jonathan on the phone and offered our support. I sent him a copy of the Chicken Soup for the Soul book that both Sean and I contributed our stories to. My mother, who knew what it was like to have a son go through cancer at a young age, sent him birthday cards to tell him to be strong and that she would pray for him. I am certain many of you have stories similar to this. When I spoke to Jonathan on the phone, it truly sounded like an ill 14 year old boy who was battling brain cancer.
I really don't want to focus on the negative though. Does this person deserve to pay? Of course they do, we have all invested our hearts, tears, time, money, and passion into a person that doesn't even have cancer, but is clearly sick and needs some sort of help. It is important that we focus on the positive and not lose sight of what everyone's ultimate goal is. As most of you know, the cancer community is a tight knit group of people that will do whatever they can to help each other out. I like to think of it as a club that you never want to become a member of, but once you do, you find your best friends in the world. It is very hard to articulate, but cancer changes the way you look at everything. We stick together and have a unique outlook on life and truly want to help others going through the same thing. You can talk with someone who has been touched by cancer and there is that immediate bond; almost like family.
We need not focus on the actions of this one person, but truly embrace the good that others are doing. We certainly don't want to stop what we are doing because of one bad apple...if we did, survivors, fighters, advocates, and caregivers would fall through the cracks and that is not fair to anyone. Should we be more careful? Perhaps, but in this situation, we felt like we had the bases covered, we crossed our T's and dotted our I's as best as you can in this technological day. We confirmed with "dad" that we could speak to him.
The true purpose of this blog is that I don't want people to lose faith in the system and give up this fight. The internet is such a valuable tool in this effort to find a cure for cancer. It brings people together that otherwise would have never known each other existed. It allows us to spread messages of hope and lift spirits of people who would have thought of cancer as a death sentence. It allows vital information to pass into people's hand such as clinical trials, treatments, and insurance information. It connects survivors, fighters, advocates, and caregivers from around the world. Cancer kills 8 million people worldwide! That is more deaths than AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria combined. This year alone, 12 million people will hear the words "you have cancer". 1500 Americans die each day from cancer and cancer is the #1 killer of Americans under the age of 85.
As you can see, this is bigger than a sick, fictitious person named Jonathan White. So please, I know this has been a rough couple of days for all of us, but it is important for us to stay positive and continue to do our parts. We must come together in these difficult times, stick together, and get the job done. We have a lot of work to do and we can't accomplish it without a united front. Cancer is a global epidemic and together we can end the stigma attached to this disease. As Lance Armstrong has said these past few weeks, IT'S ABOUT YOU. We will all get through this together and if we continue to do our parts, we will give hope through inspiration and help find a cure for this disease.
LiveSTRONG, Be Well, and Keep Climbing!