Survivor Advisory Board

People who have traveled the path understand the journey in a way others cannot. The role of the Medical Advisory Board is crititcal, but the wisdom of the Survivor Advisory Board is what makes SURVIVEiT® unique. 

Jonny Imerman - IL (Testicular Cancer)

Q. If you had one minute to tell someone about yourself, what would you say?

A. I LOVE people!  And I love working on projects with people that make the world a better place!  I love animals, I’m a vegan, and I’m a minimalist.

Q. Knowing what you know today, what are the first three things you would do after being diagnosed with cancer for the first time? Why? 

A. LIVE the life you love!  Build things to make the world a better place.  Find the BEST people you can in the world and keep them close to you!

Q. What is the best way to support someone (and their family) who has just been diagnosed with cancer?

A. BE PRESENT.  That’s #1 and most important.

Q. Where do you find hope, inspiration and strength? 

A. My mom, my brother, my friends and people who care about me.  Couldn’t have made it without them!

Q. What do you want others to know about surviving cancer?

A. That they are not alone! Survivors and good people are here to share, help and support them!  TOGETHER we are all stronger!

Q. What has been the most rewarding experience in your cancer journey?

A. The ability to share my story, and partner with others, to help the newly diagnosed!

Q. What does SURVIVEiT’s vision, “creating a world free from the fear of cancer,” mean to you?

A. It means we all work together to help the newly diagnosed keep a HEALTHY MIND and SPIRIT and find a way to win their cancer fight!!!

Teri Griege - MO (Colon Cancer)

Q. If you had one minute to tell someone about yourself, what would you say?  

A. I would say that my mission in life is to save lives and inspire hope. I’m a mother, a wife, a friend and an Ironman. My diagnosis of stage IV colon cancer was life-changing, but I have taken this experience and want to help others through prevention and to understand that no matter the adversity there is always hope.  

Q. Knowing what you know today, what are the first three things you would do after being diagnosed with cancer for the first time? Why?  

A. 1. Find the best medical care available.

     2. Get church support. 

     3. Find counseling for family. 

Q. What is the best way to support someone (and their family) who has just been diagnosed with cancer?  

A. A cancer diagnosis can be devastating – there’s mixed emotions including fear, anger, sadness and helplessness. There is so much information out there, but it is hard to navigate where to go and who to trust. I think love, patience and compassion go a long way – just simply being there for that person and letting them know that whatever they are feeling or experiencing that it is ok. I do think it is good to encourage them to find support, whether it is through their church or through another organization or group.  

Q. Where do you find hope, inspiration and strength?  

A. I find hope in my faith, in my family and all of the survivors I know. I have this fire within to keep moving ahead and to continue to accomplish new things. I’ve just come out with my book, Powered by Hope, and I’m working on starting a foundation. These projects and training keep me motivated as well.  

Q. What do you want others to know about surviving cancer? 

A. Hope is necessary to fight! Positive attitude! Never give up! Advocate for yourself. 

Q. What has been the most rewarding experience in your cancer journey? 

A. I have met so many special people and their families, gotten to know many organization leaders, and have been inspired by their experiences. I’ve also achieved several goals including racing in the six world marathons and completed the Ironman.  

Q. What does SURVIVEiT’s vision, “creating a world free from the fear of cancer,” mean to you?  

A. There is tremendous fear of a cancer diagnosis and the lifelong implications it has. I would like to see a world where one day that fear is eliminated and cancer no longer exists. 

Iram Leon - TX (Brain)

Q. If you had one minute to tell someone about yourself, what would you say?

A. I am just a guy who loves the basics of life: putting one foot in front of the other, hanging out with people I love, and daring to dream.

Q. Knowing what you know today, what are the first three things you would do after being diagnosed with cancer for the first time? Why?

A. 1. Figure out what you’re living for and make that the reason to avoid dying since the dying part will get there anyway someday.

2. Even as overwhelming as cancer can be, don’t let yourself be completely self-absorbed. Continue to care for the people who care about you because it’s overwhelming for them, too.

3. Realize that even with a complicated diagnosis or treatment, the simplicity in wanting to live with the right team will make it easier.

Q. What is the best way to support someone (and their family) who has just been diagnosed with cancer?

A. There will be financial overwhelming, overwhelming feelings both physical and emotional. There were people who helped with those and they were life-savers in their own ways. For me, the best gifts were the ones of presence. The people who could make the phone call or the drive over.

Q. Where do you find hope, inspiration and strength?

A. I don’t have to look far. I have a 7 year old daughter who it takes all the energy I have to just try to keep up with her. I also know people who have had to relearn to walk or talk, and others who run marathons or have done Ironmans; people whose relationships have collapsed and those who find a way to love others deeper. It’s not so much about bouncing back as I get inspiration from those who bounce forward.

Q. What do you want others to know about surviving cancer?

A. If you weren’t already doing some things right, be grateful you have a second chance. If you were, take the chance to do it better.

Q. What has been the most rewarding experience in your cancer journey?

A. I’ve long joked that if brain cancer makes my daughter into a neurosurgeon it’s totally worth it. I think it’s that it woke me up to an age old adage: work on the relationships you want to keep and do not take them for granted. I’ve gotten to do many more things with friends and family.

Q. What does SURVIVEiT’s vision, “creating a world free from the fear of cancer,” mean to you?

A. It means that all of life’s problems, and certainly the chronic ones a cancer diagnosis can cause, can be utilized to live by hope and not by fear. 

Bonnie Addario - CA (Lung Cancer)

Q. If you had one minute to tell someone about yourself, what would you say?

A. If I say I am going to do something I do it!

Q. Knowing what you know today, what are the first three things you would do after being diagnosed with cancer for the first time? Why?

A.  1. I would get molecular testing.

      2. Not allow treatment without multidisciplinary team.

      3. Research my cancer.

Q. What is the best way to support someone (and their family) who has just been diagnosed with cancer?

A.   Empower them to get the right drug for their cancer at the right time.

Q. Where do you find hope, inspiration and strength?

A.  From patients and their families

Q. What do you want others to know about surviving cancer?

A.  To include the people you love in your journey and make sure you have the right physicians.

Q. What has been the most rewarding experience in your cancer journey?

A.  I learned to LIVE every day to the fullest.  Life is not a rehearsal.

Q. What does SURVIVEiT’s vision, “creating a world free from the fear of cancer,” mean to you?

A.  It is possible to do……

Don Stranathan - CA (Lung Cancer)

Q. If you had one minute to tell someone about yourself, what would you say?

A. I am a survivor. I was diagnosed with an enlarged heart in 1995 and was told I would need a heart transplant within two years. I started exercising, researching supplements and I reversed a condition my doctors told me had no cure. So when I was diagnosed with Stage IV NSCLC in 2009. The first thing that crossed my mind was, "I can beat this." I am happy to say I am still going strong after five years. Keep a positive attitude, exercise as much as you can and don’t lose hope.

Q. Knowing what you know today, what are the first three things you would do after being diagnosed with cancer for the first time? Why?

A. Get a second opinion from a lung cancer specialist, have all genetic testing done that is possible on my tumor and I would not start any treatment until I knew all my mutations and options. Throwing chemotherapy drugs at cancer that don’t work just make the cancer stronger.

Q. What is the best way to support someone (and their family) who has just been diagnosed with cancer?

A. People I had known for years turned their back on me when I was diagnosed with lung cancer. I know now they didn’t know how to react or what to say. I tell my friends to just treat me like normal and be there for me if I need support. Sometimes they just have to offer because I might not want to ask. I think about cancer 24/7 so I am always glad to have a normal conversation with my friends.

Q. Where do you find hope, inspiration and strength?

A. Through others that are fighting cancer. I also live my life by spiritual principles which have brought me through some rough patches and keep me grateful for the life I have today.

Q. What do you want others to know about surviving cancer?

A. Cancer is no longer a death sentence with all the new targeted therapies being approved. Stay strong, exercise, eat healthy and surround yourself with people that are positive and supportive. I think the best tool in my toolbox is having a faith in a power greater that myself. It reminds me I am not in charge.   

Q. What has been the most rewarding experience in your cancer journey?

A. I met Penny Blume, the love of my life, on a cancer web site in October of 2011. We fell in love and spent the next 32 months living life to the fullest. Penny passed on January 21, 2014 from small cell lung cancer. I made her a promise I would continue to advocate for more research and awareness for lung cancer, so that is what I do.

Q. What does SURVIVEiT’s vision, “creating a world free from the fear of cancer,” mean to you?

A. The word fear means to me False Evidence Appearing Real. SURVIVEiT is made up of survivors and caregivers that have walked in your foot steps and are here to make your journey a bit easier. They can dispel some of the myths about cancer. 

Amy Dodson - AZ (Sarcoma)

Q. If you had one minute to tell someone about yourself, what would you say?

A. The greatest gift I ever received was that of perspective, whcih I learned from my cancer experience.

Q. Knowing what you know today, what are the first three things you would do after being diagnosed with cancer for the first time? Why?

A.  1. Go to the Livestrong website and look for information and help.

      2. Talk to the navigators.

      3. Learn about types of amputation surgery.

I would do these things because I would be taking control of the situation.

Q. What is the best way to support someone (and their family) who has just been diagnosed with cancer?

A. Be supportive and POSITIVE. One of the best things that happened to me when I was diagnosed and learned I would lose my leg was when my dad walked into my hospital room and said, "Well, I guess we'll need to get you an eye patch and a parrot to carry on your shoulder!" I loved it because we found humor in a time of great fear.

Q. Where do you find hope, inspiration and strength?

A.  I personally find hope, inspiration and strength in other cancer survivors. They remind me that I am part of the clan, and that I am so lucky to have taken this journey.

Q. What do you want others to know about surviving cancer?

A.  Being a cancer survivor is incredible. Not just because I'm still here. Because I know what's important in life. Like I said: Perspective.

Q. What has been the most rewarding experience in your cancer journey?

A.  The most rewarding experience has been the ability to give others hope and inspiration. I am certain that is why I did survive.

Q. What does SURVIVEiT’s vision, “creating a world free from the fear of cancer,” mean to you?

A. To me, the vision is one of tremendous hope. It also has great potential for getting rid of the many stigmas surrounding cancer that still exist.  

Jill Feldman - IL (Lung Cancer)

Q. If you had one minute to tell someone about yourself, what would you say?

A. I am 44, married with 4 kids.  I may have stage IV lung cancer, but that is only part of my identity - it does not define me!  I am thankful for each day and try to live by what I know today.

Q. Knowing what you know today, what are the first three things you would do after being diagnosed with cancer for the first time? Why?

A. The most important thing to me was finding the right doctor to treat me; someone who treated the patient, not the disease. I always kept copious notes and all records. I also was able to communicate my feelings and needs with my husband, family and friends, but I had been on both sides of cancer and in so many way it's much harder to be the loved one than the patient so I made sure that I gave them time to communicate their feelings and needs. Also, when people asked what they could do for me, I told them to help my husband and kids, who take the brunt of it all.

Q. What is the best way to support someone (and their family) who has just been diagnosed with cancer?

A. Listen first. Every patient is different so it’s important to figure out what that individual patient’s, and family’s, needs are; what they want to know/hear and how involved they want to be in their treatment.  Try not to give medical advice, rather simply advise the patient/family and provide appropriate information and resources.  Be hopeful!

Q. Where do you find hope, inspiration and strength?

A. I find hope, inspiration, and strength in my family. I find it in my survivor family and I find it in knowing that research is moving and there are new discoveries all the time.

Q. What do you want others to know about surviving cancer?

You have no control over cancer physically - in your body, but you do control the mental game.  It takes time, and a lot of work, but once you control that, and cancer has to fit into YOUR life, living becomes easier.

Q. What has been the most rewarding experience in your cancer journey?

A. My work with LUNGevity since 2001 gave me the honor of being part of the growth and success of the first organization in the country dedicated exclusively to lung cancer. Also, supporting other patients and knowing that makes a difference in their journey.

Q. What does SURVIVEiT’s vision, “creating a world free from the fear of cancer,” mean to you?

A. It means that no one has to go through this journey alone.  It means that every patient has a readily accessible advocate.  Without fear, patients have more control.

Katie Rich - NY (Colorectal)

Q. If you had one minute to tell someone about yourself, what would you say?

A.  I’m an energetic, outgoing, positive person who loves life.  My family always comes first in my life and I love them more than words can describe.  I am a caring, compassionate, giving person who appreciates everyone in my life. I have a wonderful husband who has been by my side since day one.  I love helping people and enjoy good conversations.

Q. Knowing what you know today, what are the first three things you would do after being diagnosed with cancer for the first time? Why?

A. 1. Gather my army. (inform the people closest to me and let them know I NEED THEM.  Cancer cannot be fought alone.)

2. Get to Memorial Sloan Kettering:  They are a huge part of my survival.

3.  Mentally, emotionally, and physically prepare for the fight of my life. 

Q. What is the best way to support someone (and their family) who has just been diagnosed with cancer?

A. Be there for them (whatever their needs may be). DON’T disappear because you do not what to say or do.  DO SOMETHING.  Bring them food, provide child care, sit with them, laugh with them, cry with them…. Just be with them.  Provide some kind of support.  Mail them a card, stop by for a visit …. Do something. 

Q. Where do you find hope, inspiration and strength?

A.  My family.  I look in the eyes of my children (at the time they were 3 yrs old, 20 months and 8 weeks).  They were my strength.  I reach out to other survivors. They provide me hope.

Q. What do you want others to know about surviving cancer?

A. Surviving cancer is a process not a destination.  I am still learning how to survive it!

Q. What has been the most rewarding experience in your cancer journey?

A.  I learned that so many people LOVE me and my family.  My army was enormous and was there for us unconditionally! I have become closer to so many people and I have met some amazing people on my journey.

Q. What does SURVIVEiT’s vision, “creating a world free from the fear of cancer,” mean to you?

A.  It’s so powerful…. Cancer is scary and that needs to be changed.  It’s scary not only for the patient but for anyone and everyone connected to the patient.  The fear can be paralyzing. 

Hayley Dubin - OH (Ovarian Cancer)

Q. If you had one minute to tell someone about yourself, what would you say?

A. I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer 16-years ago. At the time I had a two-year old son, was trying to manage my sales career and felt completely stressed and out of balance. Although it was an extremely difficult time, as I had extensive surgery and chemotherapy, I have learned and grown so much from my experience. I look at my cancer journey as a gift because it led me to live my life with integrity; not only allowing me to focus on what is most important to me but to enhance my life in ways I could have never imagined. Consequently, I decided to quit my job and stay home with my son, and my husband and I were blessed to adopt a second son less than a year after I completed treatment.

After learning how to better take care of myself through proper nutrition, managing my stress and getting in touch with what I truly wanted, I felt better than ever. It was then that I knew I wanted to help others feel the same. So, in March of 2011, I decided to attend the Institute for Integrative Nutrition to become a certified health coach. I am now fortunate enough to help others that have been touched by cancer, whether they have a strong family history or want to prevent cancer recurrence. I help them heal physically, emotionally and spiritually, by teaching them the tools of wellbeing- good nutrition, movement, positive thinking, managing stress and getting in touch with one’s true self.

Q. Knowing what you know today, what are the first three things you would do after being diagnosed with cancer for the first time? Why?

A. 1) I would research the top oncologists according to cancer type and get more than one opinion on treatment protocol.

    2) I would make sure that I had a team of health care providers, incorporating both western and eastern modalities, as I believe that the holistic approach to wellbeing is so important.

    3) I would get support from someone who has been in my shoes.

Q. What is the best way to support someone (and their family) who has just been diagnosed with cancer?

A. Be there to listen to their struggles and concerns and offer them hope, compassion and understanding, as well as empower them to take control of their own health.

Q. Where do you find hope, inspiration and strength?

A. I find hope, inspiration and strength from my husband, children, my Jewish faith and the many cancer survivors that I have been blessed to know.

Q. What do you want others to know about surviving cancer?

A. I want others to know that cancer can be your best teacher. Although we often ask ourselves why it happened or if we did something to cause it, I think it is better to ask what we can learn from it.

Q. What has been the most rewarding experience in your cancer journey?

A. Working with amazing, inspirational people; helping them take charge of their health so that they can gain confidence that they will remain vibrant and health.

Q. What does SURVIVEiT’s vision, “creating a world free from the fear of cancer,” mean to you?

A. I LOVE this vision because with the right tools, we don’t need to be afraid of cancer; with the right support we can heal and live to our fullest potential. 

Andy Kontz - SD (Leukemia)

Q. If you had one minute to tell someone about yourself, what would you say?

A.  I am your average family man.  I love my family and enjoy my job.  I believe I am a fighter and try to lead by example.  I try to set the tone.

Q. Knowing what you know today, what are the first three things you would do after being diagnosed with cancer for the first time? Why?

A.   

1. I would look at the various hospitals and make an informed decision as to where my treatment would take place. 

2. I would meet with my family and make more of a group decision. 

3. I would meet with my attorney and make sure my affairs were in order.

Q. What is the best way to support someone (and their family) who has just been diagnosed with cancer?

A.  Be there to answer questions and be available to listen.  It is an overwhelming experience and the unknown was daunting.  It would have been nice to have someone to talk to that has already gone through what I was about to.

Q. Where do you find hope, inspiration and strength?

A.  I have a deep belief in my faith.  I always thought I was going to beat this and that undying devotion helped me in my journey.

Q. What do you want others to know about surviving cancer?

A.  It is possible to beat cancer.  You have to believe and you have to have a strong support team.  Not all doctors are the same so find one you trust and believe in.

Q. What has been the most rewarding experience in your cancer journey?

A.   The most rewarding experience has been all of the prayers and support from family, friends, coworkers, and people I have never even met.

Q. What does SURVIVEiT’s vision, “creating a world free from the fear of cancer,” mean to you?

A.  SURVIVEiT’s vision to me means that eventually we are going to live in a world where a cancer diagnosis is not a death sentence but something you know you have the option to beat.  It means having a place to go to find the important information you will need to take on this fight.

Lysa Buonanno - NV (Lung Cancer)

Q. If you had one minute to tell someone about yourself, what would you say?

A. I’m a very caring person that likes to help others. I am a very dedicated Christian and try to honor God in all my actions. I’m married and a mom of 2 awesome kids. We have 2 dogs that like to go hiking with us in the desert. I’m a Stage IV lung cancer survivor that dedicates much of my time to supporting and mentoring other survivors.

Q. Knowing what you know today, what are the first three things you would do after being diagnosed with cancer for the first time? Why?

A. 1. Find support from other survivors.

     2. Get a second opinion.

     3. Learn as much as you can about treatment options.

Q. What is the best way to support someone (and their family) who has just been diagnosed with cancer?

A. Give them hope by telling them about other long-term survivors. Let them know about all the advancements over the last few years that are extending our lives. Lung Cancer is not the automatic death sentence it once was. Just listen to them, and let them know they’re not alone.

Q. Where do you find hope, inspiration and strength?

A. I find hope and inspiration through other survivors and my medical team. I get my strength and will to fight from the Lord and my family.

Q. What do you want others to know about surviving cancer?

A. It’s possible. It’s not always easy, but it IS possible to LIVE with this disease for many years.

Q. What has been the most rewarding experience in your cancer journey?

A. Learning that it’s not worth letting the little things upset you. Life is too short; it’s very precious and not everyone gets the privilege of growing old.

Also, the friends I have made with other survivors are priceless.

Q. What does SURVIVEiT’s vision, “creating a world free from the fear of cancer,” mean to you?

A. In 10 years, when a 35 year old is diagnosed with cancer they won’t go into a panic and feel like their life is over. There is hope.

Greta Kreuz - DC (Lung Cancer)

Q. If you had one minute to tell someone about yourself, what would you say?

A. I love life and people, and live every day to the fullest. I believe in helping others, and that a sense of humor is key.  

Q. Knowing what you know today, what are the first three things you would do after being diagnosed with cancer for the first time? Why?

A. Actually, what I did: cry, pray and reach out to others. It is a normal reaction. You must absorb the shock, grieve the loss of your former life, and move on to the new. Reaching out to others to learn as much as possible about lung cancer/your situation - and also simply for moral support - is critical. Knowledge is key to decision-making, and knowing you're not alone and carrying the burden single-handedly is paramount. 

Q. What is the best way to support someone (and their family) who has just been diagnosed with cancer?

A. Ask gentle, open questions - let them be the guide as to how much they want to proffer. Based on their feedback, you can offer resources, connections, or advice. Initially, just be there and listen and hug. Let them know your situation so they realize they're not alone. That is huge. Telling people I am Stage IV when I look and live a normal life typically gives them tremendous hope. 

Q. Where do you find hope, inspiration and strength?

A. My faith, my church, my children, my family and friends and fellow lung cancer survivors.

Q. What do you want others to know about surviving cancer?

A.  It is a journey. A unique, customized journey. There will be ups and downs, good chapters and bad. But you can do it! And there are silver linings: a new appreciation of life and family, not sweating the small stuff, a new joy in simple things. Life can become much richer. And you will find you may have new missions in life. I like to say I've always lived my life in color. But now I live in technicolor.

Q. What has been the most rewarding experience in your cancer journey?

A. Living more richly. No longer stressing about "stuff" that used to mean more than it should. Being free to love, empathize and help others in ways I never thought possible.  

Q. What does SURVIVEiT’s vision, “creating a world free from the fear of cancer,” mean to you?

A. To me it means eliminating cancer as a death sentence. Whether that means through a cure, or through treatments that afford a normal lifestyle, and normal life expectancy, or through a vaccine/lifestyle that prevents it in the first place. Tall order, but fear comes from the prospect of suffering and dying, so we need to get rid of both. 

Dolio Kafri - NY (Lung Cancer)

Q. If you had one minute to tell someone about yourself, what would you say?

A. I am a father, husband, entrepreneur, and lung cancer survivor who is passionate about physical activities and is trying to remain healthy and focused on life's priorities that were rearranged after I was diagnosed with cancer. My desire is to spend more quality time with the people I love and give back to the community.

Q. Knowing what you know today, what are the first three things you would do after being diagnosed with cancer for the first time? Why?

A. I was fortunate to have a "professional cancer quarterback" at my side since day one. My brother in law Dr. Alexander Krupnick lung cancer researcher at Washington University. This enabled me to navigate and make good decisions from very early on that had a major positive impact on my treatment, recovery, and positive state of mind. If possible, that would be what I'd recommend to anyone.

Q. What is the best way to support someone (and their family) who has just been diagnosed with cancer?

A. Listen. Help with information when asked for. Answering questions specifically while avoiding telling long horror/bravery stories. Point them to SURVIVEiT®.

Q. Where do you find hope, inspiration and strength?

A. Looking at my wife and kids, I want to be here for them. I also find strength from within.

Q. What do you want others to know about surviving cancer?

A. Stay in the moment, if you think about the bad things that can happen in the future you WILL BE miserable. Be knowledgeable but avoid data oversaturation. There is a lot of crap you will receive from well wishing people, the internet, and more - focus only on the reliable sources of information.

Q. What has been the most rewarding experience in your cancer journey?

A. Realizing that this might be an opportunity for my family and I to rethink the next 50 years. Discovering that my way of handling this disease and what I do at supportersize has a positive impact on people. I consider that a gift.

Q. What does SURVIVEiT’s vision, “creating a world free from the fear of cancer” mean to you?

A. In my case I wouldn't know that I have cancer unless I see my Dr. (scans, tests, etc.). I really don't have any physical symptoms. What's left for me and my family is the awareness that I'm a cancer patient, which means fear of the unknown and of what can happen. For us, uncertainty is scary, knowledge gives strength, and I can relate 100% to the need of SURVIVEiT®'s mission.