From Jason Wagner, MyLifeLine.org Board President:
As the incoming Board President for MyLifeLine.org, I would like to share my personal connection with the mission and my hopes and dreams for what we will accomplish during my tenure. Without having faced it myself, I have seen the brutality of cancer up close. Even more importantly I have seen victories, what I would call invigorated living, as a benefit of fighting this terrible disease. I am certain there are exceptions, but the optimist in me wants something positive to come from something so horrific.
There is a long track record of cancer amongst my family and friends. My grandmother battled breast cancer, my grandfather battled lung cancer, my mother lost a fiancé to leukemia, and my distant cousin died at just 19 years old this May of metastatic melanoma. But the story that impacted me the most was my father’s experience with cancer as it exemplifies my deepest connection to MyLifeLine.org.
Being a hard worker was and still is a family requirement and my father modeled this his entire life. His accomplishments were many. He was an excellent student, an All-American high school football quarterback, a college football player, a medical student, and a member of the Air Force. After his military service my father became a doctor, living the intense life of a medical professional, working sixty-plus hours every week for decades. As a general and laparoscopic surgeon, he was held to a pretty high standard of daily intensity holding a great responsibility for people’s health, well-being and lives. In addition to his surgical practice, my father was an emergency room doctor at more than one hospital well into his sixties, definitely on the front lines of stress and saving lives. His professional day-to-day was so incredibly stressful that it left little space for emotional and personal availability at home, until his late 50’s. That was the point when he became a patient for the first time in his life. He was diagnosed with an uncommon throat cancer which was a huge shock to him and the entire family. At that time, there was no MyLifeLine.org or any online tools, but our family bonded together in support of his battle. He was given a 20% chance of getting past his throat cancer.
Throughout his own surgery and treatments of chemotherapy and radiation, my father continued working both as a surgeon and an ER doctor. The experience of being a patient and facing the probability of death focused him on his health, his personal relationships, and providing for his family (still working). In the end he became completely emotionally available to everyone. He was emotionally available to his patients in ways he had never been before, and while he was always an exceptional surgical technician, he became a much better doctor. He was always a good dad, but through this experience he became an extraordinary father, emotionally available to his family in ways could never be before. Every day became an opportunity to live in the moment. I saw my father change himself and adjust his priorities and it was amazing.
A crucially important piece of my passion and connection to MyLifeLine.org is very apparent in my journey with my father’s battles with cancer. If missed, then you walk away from my commentary as just a personal experience with cancer and its impact of taking something from me as a person. The most important piece of my connection to MyLifeLine.org is that I believe in my heart (although I can’t scientifically prove anything) human interaction and connections have healing power. I believe counseling, group therapy and support from loved ones enhance the success of medical treatments. The idea of emotional and physical connections come through in stories you hear about married couples who die weeks apart. In the example of my father, I believe he would have died from his throat cancer without the love and support from his wife, his four sons, other family and his friends. I believe that his human connections assisted the medicine in extending his life and at a great quality of life too. My father enjoyed several years of remission and then the cancer returned in his lungs. Again he was fighting against the odds to survive and he beat them, achieving remission from cancer, continuing to work throughout the treatment and engaging fully in life with his friends and family. A couple years later, the cancer came back in his brain. This time he had to step away from work, but he focused on his treatment and his human connections. He beat the brain cancer, and by then his battle with cancer had extended from his late fifties into his early seventies. It wasn’t long before the cancer returned to his brain in a different form, and he opted to stop treatment and live as much of a quality of life as he could with his remaining time. My father lived a great life, and through the love in our family, lived a better and longer life than he otherwise could.
While we didn’t have MyLifeLine.org throughout this experience, the service is exponentially more powerful than is physically possible to achieve in-person in the average busy life today. MyLifeLine.org allows for the efficient and effective communication of a cancer patient’s journey, eliminating people’s guilt of not keeping in touch. It allows for a higher quality conversation when people do actually have time to talk, spending that time talking about life and positive things. I believe that medicine, meaningful personal connections with people, and the inspiration of living life fully all work together to give us the best experience we can have in the time we are given. I am thankful for anything I can do to further the cause and mission of MyLifeLine.org.
I am honored to be selected to serve the board of MyLifeLine.org. My overall goal as incoming Board President is to carry on the legacy of the organization as one that is high-impact, free for users, and life enhancing. What a small community of people have been able to create is incredible. We are serving users in 181 countries, and in reality we could help people in every country (I hope we do eventually). As a partner (in an accounting, tax, and consulting organization) I have never been able to achieve this, and if I can be so bold, I would say I want to play a part in an organization that is saving lives. I believe, based on my own personal experience, that MyLifeLine.org is saving lives. My hope for my tenure is to move MyLifeLine.org forward meaningfully.
I have many hopes and dreams for the organization. A sampling of things I want the MyLifeLine.org community to accomplish include the following possibilities:
Technological Advancement – Everything begins and ends with the quality service we provide and nothing will ever replace this as the number one priority. We are well down the path of a significant improvement to the MyLifeline.org technology and this will elevate the user experience. I am excited for the roll-out of the new updates later this year. My goal is to maintain a cultural mindset of advancement and continual improvement in what we do with technology, always in directions that serve and support those at war with cancer.
Outreach – We are serving people in 181 countries currently, and over 100,000 users. That is amazing! My dreams would be realized if we can add a digit to the community we serve and cross the million user mark. MyLifeLine.org should be more of a household name and I hope we reach our dreams on this one.
Geographic Expansion – We have a great group of people in Denver meeting, working, spreading the good word about MyLifeLine.org, and they travel frequently to spread the word. I hope we find another community who wants to meet, generate some buzz, sponsor some fun community events, and grow the physical distribution of the great work we do. To anyone in any community who wants to start a MyLifeLine.org movement, please contact me — I would love to help make that happen.
We are a humble organization based in Denver, Colorado but we are serving the cancer community of the world. Everyone is best served if our worldwide community is aware of and inspired to follow their hearts and support us generously. We appreciate your time and interest in reading this message. Thanks!