Together We Choose To Fight …
20 June 2020
I was given the opportunity to say a few words at the virtual Grand Finale Gala tonight:
Let me start by once again congratulating all of this year’s Man & Woman of the Year candidates and their campaign teams.
You did it! I know how good it feels to take a deep breath, to relax, and just enjoy this moment. I hope you are proud of the work you’ve done, especially this year.
Many of us here have direct, first-hand experience of how disruptive cancer can be to our lives. I vividly remember sitting in a tiny hospital room in Lancaster, England, thirty years ago, all alone — literally — when my doctor told me that I had leukemia.
I had no idea what to do with those words, let alone process how dramatically different everything was going to be from that moment forward. It’s hard. It’s traumatic. It feels impossible to be diagnosed with leukemia at twenty — or at 40, or at 4, or even at only a few months old. None of it makes make any sense.
And so we search for normalcy in times of crisis. We adapt, right? We have to. We change our expectations, suddenly, about what “normal” even means anymore.
We are so desperate for human connection when we’ve been forced to isolate ourselves for weeks or months at a time. How amazing is it to spend an evening with friends and family without having to answer one more well-meaning question about cancer? To talk about baseball, and have it just be about baseball, not some elaborate metaphor about patience and perseverance.
Simple things take on new significance. A haircut? A stupid haircut? I remember the unbelievable joy that came with needing a trim for the first time after months without any hair at all. This is how we get through adversity: moment by moment, one day at a time.
But that’s not enough, is it?
We need meaning and value in our lives. It’s not enough to just survive. It’s not enough to just get by. That might work for a little while, through the most challenging of times, but life is so much richer when we’re able to be part of something bigger.
It’s why I’ve run a handful of marathons with Team in Training over the years. It’s why I’m back as an All-Star candidate. And it’s why everyone here tonight has my admiration.
Please — like this year’s candidates — please think about embracing ways to give back that seem so big and so impossible and so scary. Trust me when I tell you that nothing is impossible. We are all capable of great things.
15 June 2020
It’s Grand Finale time! The first-ever virtual Grand Finale gala for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Man & Woman of the Year competition will be held via Zoom on June 20th from 7pm – 8pm Central Time. Silent auction items will go live on June 17th and will be available to bid on through noon-ish on the 20th. To bid on any of these awesome items, or to get details for how to join the event this Saturday, please register here first:
If you’ve never been to the Grand Finale, it is always one of the most moving and inspirational nights of the year. This year provides an excellent opportunity to experience it from anywhere in the world — taking an hour out of a Saturday evening to learn more about LLS, to hear about the lives impacted by blood cancer, and to crown the 2020 Man and Woman of the Year! I’m excited to raise a glass to celebrate the dedication, perseverance, and commitment of all the candidates. It’s been a long four months getting here.
20 May 2020
I had a chance to speak with Tom Barnard a couple of times this week, sharing some thoughts on my experience with leukemia, how disruptive that was as a 20-year-old college student, and how I chose to tackle adversity by focusing on the moment, on making sure every day you have a hundred percent chance of making it to the next one. You can listen to both conversations here:
17 May 2020
So now it’s time to take a deep breath and extend my heartfelt thanks to everyone who helped make these past ten weeks so incredibly successful. You can still donate to The Leukemia and Lymphoma society for the next month – up until the date of our rescheduled (and now virtual) Grand Finale Gala on June 20th. I look forward to sharing more details then about how much of an impact we’ve collectively been able to make toward helping fund critical support, services, and research for blood cancer patients.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
19 April 2020
The world is in an entirely different place than it was when this campaign started in early March. It is impossible to ignore the impact COVID-19 is having on all of us, and cancer patients in particular. Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 10, words about the early days of my battle with leukemia that are still relevant this many years later:
“See, there are all sorts of sick people in emergency rooms. Coughing, sneezing, wiping their hands on door handles or couch cushions or whatever. When your immune system isn’t doing much of anything in the way of fighting infections on its own, it is not a good idea to place yourself into the middle of that environment.
In many ways, I’m already starting to learn, a hospital is the absolute worst place to be when you’ve got leukemia. But a hospital is also the absolute best place to be, for obvious reasons. Leukemia can be pretty messed up that way.”
This is the challenge. You have to learn to adapt, suddenly, to a set of circumstances you never asked for, facing all kinds of fear and uncertainty, all while trying to make informed choices about what’s best for your health. None of this is easy. I’m proud that LLS continues to be a champion for blood cancer patients during these trying times:
- by providing much-needed financial aid in response to COVID-19
- through specific webinars on COVID-19 to help calm fears and anxieties
- and from trained information specialists who are available to talk or chat throughout the day to answer any questions and alleviate any concerns
It’s hard to imagine what our new normal is going to look like, or how long it will take for us to get there, but I’m confident that we’ll make it through this together.
05 March 2020
I was only 20 years old when I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. According to current literature from The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, “AML is a difficult disease to cure. A few decades ago almost no adults with AML were cured.” Even today, overall five-year survival rates for AML are only only marginally better than they were in 1990.
I was one of the lucky ones. For that – and for three subsequent decades without any lingering complications or long-term health issues – I will always be incredibly grateful.
To celebrate my thirtieth “cancerversary,” I’ve chosen to take on another ten week fundraising campaign on behalf of LLS. In 2016, I competed against local candidates in Minnesota and was named Man of the Year. This year I’m representing the Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota Chapter in a national All-Star Man & Woman of the Year fundraising competition. Every dollar counts. The money raised for LLS goes toward vital research, patient services, and government advocacy.