Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Second Chances, Giving Back and How You Can Help

( May 2003, only weeks out of treatment. That's me in the top center. )

This is the first in a multi-part series about what my experience with cancer has helped me find in my own life and how it has given me an opportunity to fight back.

In 2003 I was diagnosed with testicular cancer and the experience changed my life. My cancer wasn’t urgently life threatening, but it could have been. I stand as a textbook example of early detection. I also add that my case demonstrates the value having a good relationship with a health care provider, someone who you aren’t afraid to call when something doesn’t feel right. That choice saved my life. Don’t overlook the lesson here.

The details of my cancer aside, ask me sometime and I’ll gladly share, I got a second chance. Life in the bonus round as I have become fond of saying. Letting that sink in was life changing. How had I been living my life? Well, I worked a lot. As a consultant I got paid for all the hours I worked and putting in long hours meant big returns. But, money doesn’t buy you happiness. My wife (Margot) and I had had recurring relationship issues and my long hours and bullheadedness in not attending to those issues kept them alive. Cancer changed all of that. Cancer showed me that I could change my life and focus on what was important, whatever that might be. The prospect of taking stock of everything and knowing I could rediscover and value interests differently than I had before was energizing. Family, friends, getting away for the weekend, walks with dog, music and reading all had newfound value to me. This was a damn good thing, with damn good timing! Thank you cancer. You still suck though.

Sidenote: The picture above is bittersweet for me, my wife and all of her family who are pictured there. Despite my returning health at the time the picture was taken, a storm was brewing. Margot's uncle Gerry, in front of the right-hand banister, was diagnosed with cancer a year or so later. He fought for over 6 years but ultimately lost his battle in 2011. After his diagnosis he and I walked the survivor lap in our Relay For Life together. It was a special bond with a man whose friendship will never be forgotten. When I walk the survivor lap in this year's Relay he will not be there, making the loss real for me in a way others in the family will not be able to relate to. Cancer, you suck, a lot!

My food & beverage adventures, and this blog, are a direct offshoot from my cancer experience. At Margot’s urging, we are happier than ever by the way, I took on a hobby; making my own beer at home. One thing led to another and I started making more beer, then wine, cider and mead; and then I began entering competitions and travelling to find new sips to experience. The joy I have been able to experience from all of this makes my cancer experience bittersweet. I wouldn’t trade it in for all the good it has done me. But, make no mistake, I despise cancer, am at war with it and with all the bravado I’ve got, am going to kick the living shit out of this disease if it is the very last thing I ever do.

Shortly after my treatment was completed I began searching for ways to get involved in the fight and give back so that others who follow me, and sadly too many people will follow my path, will have the resources to reduce their suffering and save their life that were available to me.

(That's me on the right clowning around with another cancer survivor. It's the coolest club you will never WANT to be a member of.)

This year is the tenth year that I along with a group of family and friends have rallied to raise money and awareness in the fight against cancer. We participate in several events annually and our flagship event is the Relay For Life of Greater Derry & Londonderry. In an upcoming post in this series I will share more about Relay as a nationwide event (it's worldwide, but I’m not as knowledgeable there as I would like to be), what it is, how it works and how you can get involved in a Relay in your own community.

In closing I will make one point crystal clear, I can’t fight cancer alone. I need your help. My Relay For Life is coming up in June and I need as many people to support the event as possible. The fight against cancer needs resources, my resources, your resources and the resources of your friends and family. Will you help me?  Your tax-deductible donation directly to the American Cancer Society can be made from the link below. Thank you so much for your support.

( Team Survivors Rule! having finished the 2010 Relay. By 2010 we had raised over $60,000 in the fight.)

Please help me fight cancer with a donation to the Relay For Life using the online donation format at

We are fighting, we will win, we MUST HAVE HOPE!




Frank Morgan said...

I appreciate your story - thanks for sharing this with your friends and readers here! Look forward to the next part of the series here. Sadly we've all been touched by cancer in some way (wish it wasn't so), but advocates like you supporting organizations/events like Relay For Life will hopefully lead to a cure.

All the best to you!

PS -- I'm not sure pink is really your color ;) , but you wear the boa well for the cause.

elle potter said...

You rock.

It's amazing what cancer does - in the midst of all the shitty things, it also can inspire and empower not only those who wage war against it, but also to the families and friends (and sometimes even distant acquaintances and strangers) who are touched by it. My gramma's fight with lymphoma started last January and now she fights other monsters because of her immune system being shot. And knowing all she can do right now is lay in the hospital and fight from her bed, I signed up for a half-marathon with Team in Training. I hate running. I still can't believe I'm doing it. But it's the only way I find I can show my support and sincere respect and admiration for the fight she's putting up. And a gramma with the name Billie Jean is worth the effort. (

Thank you thank you for sharing. It reminds me that I am making a difference - but that I can only do it because of the people who are supporting me. And that it really does matter.

Rock on, Jason! Looking forward to seeing you in Portland for WBC (:

Wine Harlots said...

Well, I disagree with Morgan -- I think pink is your color -- you rock that boa!

Thanks for sharing your story and it's inspirational.

Illness changes how you view the world. I had a stoke when I was in my early twenties and had to learn to talk again (I know -- muteness would have been a blessing for the world...)

Keep fighting the good fight.

All the best,

Nannette Eaton

Jason Phelps said...

Thank you Frank, Elle and Nannette.

Being able to share the story firsthand, rather than have a grief stricken spouse and family do it, is something I wish that many other people will have the chance to do.

We are making progress. Detection rates are up, but so are incidences of early treatment success. That means we are keeping more people with us and their suffering is being mitigated. While that is great news, our work is not done.

Thank you so much for stopping by, sharing your stories and raising awareness of the fight we must all take up.