Life Lessons from Cancer Survivors

All of our stories are fascinating. We relish sharing stories about joy and good fortune. Telling stories about troubling times: that’s a different matter. For most of us, we’d rather keep the difficult times to ourselves. Yet, it is often from hearing about these difficult struggles that we can learn the most about life, character, and survival.

This Friday, at my Leaders Connect Breakfast, four people will tell their stories about their struggle with cancer. Some of them have come through it and are healthy again. All of them fear recurrence. Some of them are still struggling to survive.

I became interested in this topic because I have witnessed the power of cancer and other serious illnesses to devastate individuals and families.   Almost always, whether the struggle ends sadly or triumphantly, I am inspired by how people find the strength to cope with serious illness.  Surprisingly, many people describe being positively transformed because of their struggle with the illness. I feel that it is important for these people to have a chance to share their experiences. Today, I give you the opportunity to learn about the struggles of these four people. We will hear their stories in more detail this Friday. If you have not signed up yet wish to do so, I am including the link. Already, eighty-five people have signed up and there are 15 more spaces available. Here is a link to sign up.

About the survivors:
Heather Feldkamp lives in Saline with her husband Steve and two children Jessica 20 and Bradley 17. Heather was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013 which reappeared in her ovaries in 2015. Heather is currently employed as a Philanthropy Director for Evangelical Homes of Michigan Foundation and has a side hustle, Grow Beyond, where she consults with business owners that are interested in expanding their business via franchising.

Kathy Macdonald was diagnosed with throat cancer in early 2013.   She was one of the early HPV cases treated.  Kathy is the founder of The Macdonald Group, an Ann Arbor based consulting firm serving Fortune 100 companies.  She is active on a local level serving on the Ann Arbor BIZ Board and providing the coaching component of the Ross Leaders Academy.  She spends several weeks each year in Kenya doing volunteer work about 150 miles north of Nairobi. She is married to Jim Macdonald the former chef and owner of the Bella Ciao.

Larry Eiler was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2000. He had five consults before he opted for brachytherapy.  A form of targeted radiation therapy in which 69 “rice bombs” (radiation meds each the size of a single grain of rice) were inserted at 21 sites on his prostate gland where that cancer was confined.  His PSA has been less than 0.1 since 18 months post treatment. He will discuss why he selected this treatment from the dozen or so options available. Larry’s late wife, Sandy, subsequently developed breast cancer, which she survived.  She then dedicated her life to helping others with breast cancer, and then tragically died in a car accident in route to helping an individual who had been recently diagnosed with breast cancer.  Larry and Sandy founded Eiler Communications in 1987.

Steve Sarns lives in Dexter Michigan with his wife Lori and has two young adult children, Joey and Megan.   Sarns is a successful inventor, author and entrepreneur.  Steve’s up-coming book “Kicking Cancer’s Ass” is an inspirational story about his recent  battle with a rare, aggressive and fast growing squamous cell carcinoma that originated in his ethmoid sinus cavity.  Sarns is now re-defining his life as a cancer survivor and has gained deep personal insight due to this journey in terms of being a warrior, living life fit and in the moment, being positive and kind, and loving life while not fearing death.  As the creator and co-inventor of the NuStep recumbent cross trainer, Steve has made a lasting impact on the health and function of millions of people world-wide.

Steve is currently an owner and Board Member of NuStep, LLC, and is on the Foundation Board of the United Methodist Retirement Community, The Michigan Alzheimer’s Association and is the Chairman of the Washtenaw County’s American Heart Association Heart Walk 2018.

Jan Hansen writes:
“Who am I, my what an interesting question. I am a fully licensed Psychologist who during my doctoral studies lost my Mom to breast cancer”.
On October 16, 2015 I began a normal Friday. In mid-afternoon I left for my eye examination. During that eye examination, tests revealed difficulties with my left visual field in both eyes. With my background I immediately thought, “brain’, not eyes. After several tests, I was told I had a glioblastoma brain tumor.  With the terrible odds glioblastoma patients face, I am still here 2½ years later, clinging to great routine MRI results. I cannot drive, cannot cook, but I am alive.

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