Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Endure to Cure

Another Guest Blog.  Enjoy

Why I founded Endure to Cure
by Jason R. Sissel

Many people often ask me why I founded Endure to Cure, and rightfully so.  By popular standards it might seem counter-intuitive.  Why would someone trade a Wall Street career to start a charity?  Well, my answer to that is pretty simple: no regrets.  I am convinced E2C will be a life-changing experience for everyone involved.  The worst case scenario is that everything does not work out and I fall flat on my face; then at least I will have tried my best, gained priceless experience, and I will never wonder what might have been. So with that, I'll tell the E2C story...

After undergrad, I enjoyed a long tenure at Morgan Stanley & Co., earned my MBA at the Kellogg School of Management, and then worked for another great company, Robert W. Baird & Co.   I loved working at Baird and I have a deep passion for the financial markets.  By most people's standards, I may have been "living the dream."  But I felt like something was missing and no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't identify that elusive void in my life.

Then, on a vacation and four days into what turned out to be a life-altering, six-day climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro, it hit me.  Before my grandfather passed away from his second form of cancer, he simply asked me to carry on his spirit in my life.  It was in the rocky Karanga Camp at 16,000ft as I watched passing grey clouds so large they resembled cotton candy made for King Kong, when I understood what my grandfather's words really meant to me.  I heared his voice in my head, "Jason, you need to think less with your mind and more with your heart and all will fall into place.  When you find the courage to pursue what your heart tells you to do, then work hard, smart and fearless; and do it well.  Now is the time.  Use your resources and initiative to push your limitations outward each day.  And then, selflessly use that experience to positively influence the lives of others.  People may doubt you in the beginning, but if your heart is fully committed to what you choose to do, and you do the right things and give your best effort, I think it will succeed."  Hearing "that little voice" in your head and thinking it's right is one thing, but acting on it is usually the hard part.

Less than a month later, I took the leap of faith and decided to resign from my job.  Over the next few years I will be following one of the things my heart says to do.  I expect to log over 1,000 miles of swimming, over 3,000 miles of running, over 39,000 miles of cycling, countless hours of strength and mental training, and climb a number of the most difficult mountains on Earth.  I do this to complete my Endurance Campaign and raise money to help improve the lives of children with pediatric cancer.  While I endure this arduous physical and mental challenge, I also hope to inspire people to believe that when you have a vision, determination, and perseverance you can overcome any challenge despite how big it may seem.

If you assume that I am a natural endurance athlete, that would be the furthest from the truth.  Just back in 2005, the farthest I've ever run (and perhaps "run" is an exaggeration!) was 5 miles.  Thoughts of a marathon or Ironman would have been absurd.  I didn't even know what an Ultraman was until I was invited to do one.  The fact of the matter is: I dislike running, I don't go distance swimming and distance cycling for personal enjoyment, and aside from the challenge, there is not much I like about an Ironman other than finishing!

But what I do love is having an unrelenting purpose and doing something well out of my comfort zone that changes someone's life, inspires people, or gives a child hope that he or she can overcome a difficult battle with cancer.  While I do not know what it's like to go through round after round of chemo, I imagine that the mental and physical anguish I experience in a long distance event can only be a small fraction of what these children must endure.  That is my higher purpose.  It is what pushes me when I feel like I can't go on.  It is why I believe everyone's possibilities are endless; why our limits begin where our vision ends.  And this is why I founded E2C!

Team Endure to Cure also hosts a team of fundraising athletes known as “Team Endure to Cure” who are comprised almost equally of men and women of all skill levels.  The team motto is, “Anybody. Any Event. Anywhere in the world.”  You decide your dreams, we will help take you there.  In the process, you not only transform the lives of kids who we are fighting for, but also inspire and unite people worldwide.  Our team of athletes raises funds for very specific causes at our beneficiary organizations.  Check us out at endure to cure to learn more and thank you for reading!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Relationship with cancer

 There has been a lot of talk about how Catherine Zeta Jones has reacted to Michael Douglas' cancer and how she is not planning on going with him to his chemo and radiation treatments.  She has come under fire from all sides about how heartless she is, how can she not be with him during this difficult time.  She said that she didn't think she could see him like that, that maybe she should be stronger emotionally but she just isn't.

When I was diagnosed I had several friends disappear.  And I was pissed.  Pissed for a long time.  How could my friends just go away?  Don't they see that I need them?  Yeah I felt that way for a good 2 years.  But then I realized something.  I didn't know what their relationship with cancer is.  Maybe they had someone close to them die, maybe they watch tv and see the fictionalized version of what happens, maybe they are just scared and don't want to see their friend go through treatment.  It took me a long time to get over my anger at them.

So who are we to judge her and how she feels?  How she relates to cancer?  Because we know how we react? As survivors? As caregivers, friends, family, co-workers? 

Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones live in Hollywood.  Its a fishbowl.  They can't go anywhere without the paparazzi snapping photos and posting online and in the tabloids.  I know.  I lived and worked there for 10 years behind the scenes on television and award shows. Its a different world out there.  Imagine if every move you made was documented in print and on tv for everyone to talk about, to gossip about.  How would you feel?

Now add on a cancer diagnosis to that.  Paparazzi are probably swarming whatever hospital Michael Douglas is at hoping to snap a photo of him at his most vulnerable.  All for a quick buck.

Now imagine that was you.  During treatment.  At the time when you feel the lowest, the shittiest, the worst you will probably ever feel.  Walking to your car.  Someone takes a picture for all the world to see.

So yeah,  I am not upset with Catherine Zeta Jones.  As my friend Donald Wilhelm would say, hey  "it is what it is." 

It's their journey.  Not mine

I have my own journey.

Mel is the producer/co-host of The Vic McCarty Show.  Listen live Monday-Friday 10am-noon on

Check out my podcast The Cancer Warrior on available on demand and on Itunes

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


I lost a good friend on Monday. Found out about it the next day.  Figures the one day I decided to stay off the internet.  It was hard to learn that Don Wilhelm had passed away from a long battle with cancer.  Found out about it during The Vic McCarty Show.  Hard to do a live radio broadcast when you find out that news.  Hard to do much of anything.  Even the pilates class I had that day did little for me.

I can't even remember how Don & I met.   Probably through stupid cancer or Matt Zachary.  I was one of the people who he asked to review his book for a virtual blog tour.  I have to say his sense of humor is a lot like mine.  It was like I was reading something I had lived through.  People say stupid shit to you when you have cancer.  He wrote it all down.  Told it like it was.  It was funny and real.  It is the best book I have read about what its like to have cancer.

I was lucky enough to meet Don & his wife Amy in real life, he ironically is from the town I live in now.  We would chat on facebook and twitter.  We talked about survivorship, life etc. 

The last time I saw him was in July.  I am grateful that my fiance got to meet him.  We went out to The Pancake House in Bay Harbor.  He gave me some of his books to pass out to survivors who listen to my podcast or who I meet in person. 

When I noticed he wasn't on facebook that much I emailed Amy and asked how he was.  She said he was tired of fighting.  This was his final  facebook post:

I’ve filled my original goal here on earth. It was to spend the remainder of my life helping cancer patients. It seems to be where I found the greatest joy and the most sense of worth. I’m moving up into the next roll. I’ll leave my faithful followers to slip in and fill the gaps. Love to you all and positive energy, ...Don Wilhelm (Don entered into Hospice care as of Weds.)


When I read that post, whether you realized it or not, I know you were talking directly to me.

I wanted to wait a while before I wrote something about my friend, but I couldn't wait.  The day I found out you passed away my friend was sad.  It was a beautiful sunny day up north in the place you love so much, but somehow it seemed so dark and lonely.  Without you here with us the days seem a little less sunny, the stars seem to shine a little less brightly and the world seems sadder and smaller.   

I know that you would smile at me with that easy carefree smile of yours and say "Hey Mel, it is what it is."

I know that Don.

But I miss my friend

Sunday, September 12, 2010

5 Ways Cancer Survivors Can Boost Their Health

Another Guest Blogger, Enjoy

It’s literally a trip to the fringes of hell and back, one that leaves you both physically and mentally drained. Surviving cancer is the equivalent of beating the devil by the skin of your teeth, and if you want to avoid the burning question of how much longer you can hold on and continue to be cancer-free, you need to take the bull by its horns and start boosting your health in small and large ways. It’s your second lease of life, so don’t let the chemo treatments or anything else get you down. Instead, look forward to each new day, take it as it comes, live for the day, and do all you can to live healthily by:

Eating healthy food: Health professionals recommend that cancer survivors follow a healthy diet that includes lots of fresh fruits and vegetables in order to improve their health-related quality of life score, the test that determines how your health affects the quality of your life. The higher the score, the more quality there is in your life and vice versa. So make it a point to eat more fruits and vegetables and limit all that is unhealthy in the food category. That’s not to say that you need to become a vegetarian or eat only what’s healthy; rather, balance your meals and ensure that you’re getting the best nutrition possible.

Exercising regularly: As a cancer survivor, you’re probably drained of all your physical and mental energy what with the stress and pain associated with the notion of cancer and the chemotherapy sessions. Exercise is perhaps the last thing on your mind right now, but there are advantages to working out that promise to boost the quality of your life and make you feel better physically and mentally. Start out with leisurely walks after consulting your doctor and then move on to something more active that invigorates and energizes you. Research has proved that hatha yoga helps boost energy levels of cancer survivors and also helps them sleep better without the aid of sleeping pills.

Giving up addictions: The urge to throw caution to the winds and live life king-size is strong after you’ve survived a deadly disease like cancer, so you may probably go all out and smoke and/or drink like you never have before. But do remember that you’ve gone through a lot and put up with much pain and angst in order to survive. After driving away the disease, don’t welcome it back with open arms by smoking and drinking without a care in the world.

Socializing with friends and family: The best medicine in the world is love and laughter, and these cannot be purchased at any drugstore in the world. When you’ve been given a second chance, boost your mental and physical health by surrounding yourself with loved ones and spending more time in their company. Relationships matter more than money or work, so get your priorities right and feel better about yourself.

Staying positive: And finally, it’s important to look ahead and not behind at the road you’ve taken to come this far if you want to stay mentally healthy after beating cancer. Yes, it’s been a struggle, but by focusing on all the good things that lie ahead, it’s easy to move on and forge a good life for you, one that does not include the dreaded word cancer at all.

About the guest blogger:
 Susan White regularly writes on the subject of radiology technician schools schools. She invites your questions, comments at her email address:

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Its (fill in cancer type) awareness month

Its September.  Its Prostate, Ovarian, Childhood, Thryoid & Gynecological awareness month.  Everyone grab your ribbon color of choice and wear it proudly.  

I am a breast cancer survivor, we get a month, and pink is plastered everywhere, and I mean EVERYWHERE, it sells everything from hair brushes (ironic since most breast cancer survivors lose their hair) to tuna fish and toilet paper (Wipe for the cure??)   

So I go into the grocery store and do shopping as I usually do and I don't see any thing yellow or teal or blue promoting childhood, ovarian or prostate cancer awareness.  Why is that?  My cancer isn't any more or less important than any other cancer survivor.  The only thing I have seen on tv or in the stores was a Hyundai commercial stating that they would donate a certain percentage of car sales to childhood cancer awareness.
At least someone is doing something right?

I consider myself a cancer advocate, not just for breast cancer, but for all cancers, even if it is one I can't pronounce or have never heard of.  Its ridiculous in my opinion to give cancers certain months.  I was diagnosed in September, cancer didn't wait for its allotted month to strike me.  Cancer doesn't do that. Those of us who have been diagnosed know that.

 We shouldn't wait until a certain month to raise awareness for any type of cancer, and the whole cancer awareness thing really gets me, is there anyone anywhere who isn't aware that there is cancer?  If I buy chicken of the sea with a pink ribbon on it the money should go towards research, helping other survivors, finding a cure, finding better meds to deal with the cancer, not for awareness. 

During the Cancer Treatment Centers of America Empowerment Rally I was fortunate to meet in person, after being a I guess for lack of a better term a" friend in the virtual world" Matthew Zachary, founder or I'm Too Young for This!  a foundation that helps young adult survivors.  We shared a ride to the airport and we were discussing cancer "awareness" Basically he said we should think of the body as a whole, not as parts, all the organizations should help each other.  I totally agree.  Yeah, you might think breasts are sexy and they sell, but if you don't have the lungs behind them to work or the brain to think  or skin, then what are they?  Just another body part with cancer.

So yeah for me every month is cancer awareness/advocacy month.  Until there is a cure.

Mel is the producer/co-host of The Vic McCarty Show.  Listen live Monday-Friday 10am-noon eastern on

Check out my podcast The Cancer Warrior on available on demand and on Itunes.