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Jonny Imerman on Your Cancer Recovery
What is your mission?
My 5-Year Mission is this: Beginning January 1, 2013, every cancer fighter in the U. S. will have free access to a cancer survivor within 24 hours of being diagnosed. Imerman Angels is a "1-on-1 cancer-support service" that partners a person fighting cancer with someone who beat the same diagnosis—a "Big Brother/Big Sister" to help you beat it! www.ImermanAngels.org. 877-274-5529.
How did you become inspired to start this?
I was diagnosed at 26 years old with testicular cancer, and although I had the BEST mother, family, and friends for support, there was one missing puzzle piece. I couldn’t find someone my age—a peer—who had beaten testicular cancer!! All I wanted was to speak with someone who understood and could tell me that one day you’ll run up and down a basketball court, raise a family, work full-time, and be normal!!! Such a simple vision, but cancer fighters need this inspiration and hope!!!
What were you like before your diagnosis compared to now?
Before my diagnosis, I had A LOT of energy just as I do now, but it was not channeled!!! After cancer, I looked at the system, identified the biggest crack I could find, and as a team of survivors we built a system to fill it!!!! Today my energy flows in ONE direction and is channeled through a mission!!!! I didn’t sleep before and I still don’t haha!! (Don’t tell my oncologist—actually he already knows and gives me plenty of grief!!!)
I feel that cancer has refracted me—like a straight-line beam of light that hits an object (cancer) and comes out on a slightly different line!! I am still the same beam of light, just redirected!!!
How did you get this organization going?
We founded this org by simply teaming up as a group of survivors, finding more survivors, and then got excited about this idea!!! I simply had no idea what I was doing—I had never started a non-profit and had no clue how to do it—sometimes in life you just believe and run forward with a smile and a blindfold!!! We must all trust in ourselves!!!!! I trusted that this idea would work!!! I never looked back!!!
What is your advice to people who have an idea for a business or want to start one?
Again, TRUST yourself and BELIEVE in yourself and your ideas!!!! I say it takes two essential ingredients in any successful for-profit or non-profit: 1) Believe in it; 2) Have a relentless passion about the idea!!! If you believe in it and you’re passionate about the idea, you will wake up at 5:00 a. m. everyday and be pumped up to build it!!! Choose the idea you’re the most passionate about!! If I could choose any job in the world, I would still choose to build Imerman Angels!!!!
What's your hope and main message for people?
My hope is that we can—and believe me we will—that we can inspire and empower cancer fighters to beat it!!!!!!! We believe our minds must know and believe we can beat it!!! We can help people get to that state of mind!! And we do everyday!!!!
Give us an example of a story of connection that happened thanks to your site.
I went to Puerto Rico recently to attend an amazing wedding!! My friend Jessica called Imerman Angels as a 32-year-old single woman, school teacher, and recently diagnosed breast-cancer patient. We partnered her up with a GREAT ANGEL breast-cancer survivor to help her through the fight!!! And Jess just rocks, so our office stayed really close with her, too!!! Jess fought cancer, met a doctor along the way, started dating the doc, fell in love, beat cancer, got engaged, and then married in Puerto Rico!!!! I was honored to be there and support her and cheer on her life!!! Jess spoke to the wedding party that night and said, "this is the best year of my life. I beat cancer, won my life back, and met this man over here—the love of my life—and married him." I mean, does it get better than that!!!!! Jess also called me up on stage in front of the party and told everyone that Imerman Angels had saved her life, that the young survivor angels had gotten her to this point in her life!!!! I was crying like a 4-year-old!!!
What did your cancer diagnosis personally teach you?
EVERYTHING! I wouldn’t trade my fight with cancer—including the relapse when I was 28—for anything!! I agree with Lance Armstrong. Cancer is the single best thing that’s ever happened to me!!! It taught me how to love people, how to value what’s important, to not care about material things, and just live a life of love and peace!! I couldn’t imagine being happier or living my life any other way!!! I am living the dream. I am lucky, and I will fight each and every day for those we lose along the way, those who should have been given more time!!!!! We honor those who have fallen, and we continue the fight to memorialize and tribute them!!!! Cancer has taught me peace with dying, and livvvvvvvvvvvin’ it up every day until we get to that point!!! Every minute counts!!! I don’t waste ONE of those!!!
I wish everyone well and hope this helps inspire all the cancer fighters out there to keep their chins up and keep up the fight!!!!!