Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Written by Lisa Hanchey
While Imerman had the loving support of his family and friends, he was still missing something. “I had a great mom who was there every minute; my brothers, my friends — everyone was fantastic,” he recalls. “I simply had one missing puzzle piece — I could not find anybody my age, who was a guy, who could look me straight in the eye and tell me, ‘Look, Buddy, I’ve done this before — I endured cancer, and I beat it. Now, I’m back in the gym and working full-time. I’m happy, I’m healthy, and I’m in a relationship. I’m normal, and you’re going to be normal, too.’”
Imerman tackled his disease head-on, banking sperm to preserve his fertility, undergoing five months of grueling chemotherapy. A subsequent CT scan showed that everything was clear. But, a year later, another scan revealed four tumors. Through an incision in his stomach, doctors cut out the tumors, having to move Imerman’s organs out of the way in process, leaving behind a jagged 11-inch scar.
During his personal battle, Imerman came up with the idea to form a group matching cancer fighters, survivors and caregivers with peers for one-on-one support. “Through my own cancer fight, I saw what I thought was the biggest need in the cancer world — bridging the gap and bringing survivors closer,” he says.
In his native Michigan, Imerman gathered a group of cancer survivors, dubbed “Imerman’s Angels” by his mom, to create a network for cancer fighters. “One-on-one, we match a survivor with somebody the same age and the same gender, who is fighting the same cancer,” he explains. The program also pairs cancer caregivers — spouses, parents, children and friends of cancer fighters — with other caregivers and survivors. The free service is open to anyone touched by cancer.
Starting with 17 volunteers in 2003, Imerman worked with the angels in his spare time. By 2006, the network had grown to several hundred survivors from all over the U.S., driving Imerman to quit his day job. Now, Imerman’s Angels is headquartered in Chicago and has more than 3,000 cancer survivors and 1,500 caregivers from all 50 states and 35 countries in its network. As for Imerman, he is the picture of health at age 34, with a steady girlfriend who supports his mission.
Fortuitously, Crowley native Noelle Freeland, who lives in Chicago, turned to Imerman Angels when her father, Tommy, was diagnosed with non Hodgkins lymphoma. Working just a few blocks away from the Angels’ headquarters, Freeland became close friends with Imerman. For five years, she served as an Angels volunteer. In 2008, when Freeland herself was stricken with ovarian cancer, the first person she called was Imerman. “I couldn’t believe I had ‘caught’ cancer,” she says with a laugh. “It kind of turned the tables on me — I was a volunteer and then, all of a sudden, I became a cancer fighter.”
Today, Freeland is the beautiful, vivacious girl she was before. She finished chemo on Feb. 9, 2009, and is “doing great.” She continues to work in Chicago, traveling with Imerman to spread the word. She now is working with two Angels with ovarian cancer — one in New Jersey and the other in Chicago. “We e-mail constantly,” Freeland says. “You really form a bond with these people, even if they are not in your hometown.”
It was Freeland who brought Imerman to Louisiana, escorting him to cancer facilities throughout the state. In February, they made their first trip to the Hub City, where she introduced him to Miles Perret Cancer Services and another Lafayette institution — Lafonda. After that eventful trip, the pair returned to Louisiana in April, spending a day at the Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center and Cancer Services in Baton Rouge before heading back to Lafayette for a reception sponsored by Oncologics Inc.
The next stop was Camp Bluebird cancer retreat in DeRidder. “I just feel there is a huge need in Louisiana to get this out there, because we don’t have anything like this in Louisiana per se,” she says. “My goal is to get it established down in south Louisiana, then head up north, where they don’t have the resources that we do in south Louisiana.”
At the Lafayette reception held at Mazen’s, Imerman was mesmerizing as he described his journey from cancer victim to founder of the largest cancer support network of its kind. After the audience listened to his story, they peppered him with questions about the program. “How do the Angels keep in touch when they don’t live in the same town?” Imerman’s answer: by phone (the majority of contacts are made by phone, and are paid for with donated calling cards), e-mail or Skype.
“How is it funded?” Answer: Through donations, but the organization never asks for money.
Where do the survivors, caregivers and cancer fighters find out about the program?” Answer: “I call it the ‘three bucket’ system: One is through the medical system — places like M.D. Anderson, major and smaller cancer centers, and medical professionals — two is through places like the LIVESTRONG program, the American Cancer Society and Miles Perret, and three is everything else, like the media, etc.”
“Our No. 1 goal in Louisiana is to find the people with cancer,” Imerman told the local audience.
The Angels staff of five full-time employees makes every effort to quickly connect cancer patients. “Our goal by 2013 is that pretty much everyone in the world is aware of Imerman Angels and is connected with a survivor within 24 hours of contacting us,” adds Freeland.
To be paired with a cancer fighter, survivor or caregiver, contact Imerman Angels at 1-877-274-5529, or check out its Web site at www.imermanangels.org. Donated phone cards are available for participants.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council will consider on Tuesday a revised plan to the transform a block in Downtown Lafayette into a mixed-use residential-retail-commercial development that doesn’t include giving title to the property to the Lafayette Public Trust Finance Authority, an arrangement the council rejected earlier this month.
Trying to combat the national undertones of Louisiana's U.S. Senate race, Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu is traveling the state this week on a sort of pork celebration tour, telling voters about the projects and aid she's delivered to Louisiana.
Ever thought that big, pink Gulf coast shrimp you ordered at the restaurant or bought from the store didn't taste juicy or salty enough? Maybe it wasn't from the Gulf.
The state treasurer won't sign financial documents needed for $200 million in borrowing or for a refinancing of existing debt until he believes they accurately explain the surplus disagreement.
Homecoming outfits with ease
Acadian style home in St. Martinville or traditional Breaux Bridge home
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Bill Cassidy voted for 97 percent of the bills signed by Barack Obama.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is joining South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley on her campaign bus tour.
A New Iberia man has been sentenced to life in prison for killing a 4-year-old girl and scalding her 3-year-old brother.
A district judge decided Wednesday against sanctioning attorney/school board candidate Dawn Morris for her behind-the-scenes role in a lawsuit against Mark Cockerham.
Secretary of State Tom Schedler says Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration may have improperly destroyed records in the state employee health insurance program, in the middle of a heavily-criticized rewrite of benefit plans.
San Fran wins the World Series; Sistine Chapel improvements; Kurds moving toward Syria and more national and international news for Thursday, October 30, 2014.
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
Paper cites the former ADA's "experience as a prosecutor, his demonstrated integrity, and his ideas for reshaping the [DA's] office" in urging voters to support Keith Stutes Nov. 4.
Louisiana officials have sent a letter to the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene un-inviting members of the group who have recently been to ebola-affected West African countries from attending the group’s annual conference in New Orleans next week.
Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints have to find a way to win on the road if they plan to take over first place in the NFC South.
"It is obvious that Louisiana economic performance has not outperformed the South or the United States as a whole and, in fact, has substantially underperformed..."
A state district judge said he will rule Friday on a preliminary injunction to keep some charter schools from receiving $60 million through Louisiana's public school financing formula.
Saints fans were to gather, make merry, eat/drink compliments of a new Downtown group and watch the Saints beat Carolina and claim 1st place in the NFC South. But...
Three bedroom traditional or four bedroom traditional in Lafayette
Our fav dress for all seasons
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram doesn't see his dramatic spike in production as any sort of validation.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu is facing off one last time with her two main Republican challengers before next week's election.
Shoppers familiar with Louisiana-based Rouses Market might be surprised when they walk into the new third location set to open at the Corner of Johnston Street and Duhon Road south the Acadiana Mall on Wednesday.
Noted architect and co-founder/principal of Architects Southwest receives highest honor given to former student.
Know an innovator, job creator and visionary with a penchant for hard work? We want to know that person.
He’s pulling for Knezek and Hidalgo on his end of the parish but issued endorsements in three other districts as well.