by Chris Brewer
As you might rightfully expect, cancer is often at the forefront of our minds around here, but there are times when the stories are so dramatic or inspiring that it hits you like a hammer right between the eyes, and so the last couple of days have really got me thinking about the entire cancer experience. It started with our staff meeting here at LIVESTRONG HQ, was furthered by the news of the passing of Steve Jobs, and then driven home by an email our CEO, Doug Ulman, shared with me this morning.
On Wednesday we had our all-staff gathering and while the meeting was running a little late, Doug just didn’t want to end it on time as he clearly had something special to share. By now you’ve probably heard of our LIVESTRONG Cancer Navigation Center here in the HQ. It’s sole purpose is to provide community based navigation services here in Austin, and while it’s still in its infancy, the impact is impressive. We hoped to serve ~300 people to date. We’ve had over 900 come through the doors. But while the numbers are impressive, and a bit daunting when we figure that’s only 15% of the people we potentially could help, it was three stories that got everyone’s attention.
- A man came in saying his doctor told him there was nothing more that could be done, to go home, get his affairs in order, and they’d help arrange hospice. The LCNC staff was able to help find a clinical trial he qualified for, and he’s now doing very well.
- A woman came in concerned that she had a $7000 deductible that she didn’t think was right and she certainly could not afford. Our financial counselor was able to resolve the matter and she owed nothing.
- A man came in highly concerned that his doctor had recommended a leg amputation due to bone cancer. The LCNC staff was able to help with a second opinion that resulted in a new treatment regimen – and saved his leg!
- After that a grateful woman came into the meeting to share not only her success story via our Fertile Hope program, but to thank us personally and introduce her amazingly happy daughter. What a way to end a meeting…
Then last night, as the word spread rampantly on the passing of Steve Jobs, I thought: What a cruel irony. One of the most creative and important people of our time, and he’s taken away at just 56 years of age due to a disease that crosses all social boundaries. He had no issues with access to care or money, but ultimately there was currently nothing more that could be done. I couldn’t help but also think of my brother Robin and his passing five years ago, a similar diagnosis and fate. Cancer just sucks.
And that finally brings me to attitude. We received a message today from someone who might be near the end of her personal fight; because ultimately that’s exactly what it is, and simply put, you have to fight like hell.
She wrote: I am filled with sadness to tell you that I am in a position right now with my cancer progression that there is no longer a chemo to work for me. My case is inoperable. We have not given up… but definitely looking through a more difficult list of potential solutions. We all know my power to persevere through cancer and I will continue with all my power. There is always a chance that something new comes through that will work in my favor. I have to believe that.
But it was how she ended her email that really caught my attention, saying:
I AM LIVING STRONG!!!
I get up, I walk, I fall down. Meanwhile, I keep dancing.
The cancer experience is tough, no matter what the outcome. We’re here to help the 28M people around the world navigate through this time, and we’re proud and honored to serve. Thanks – for all you do.
Chris Brewer will celebrate 15 years of cancer survivorship starting at the LIVESTRONG Challenge weekend here in Austin, Oct 15-16.