Tag Archives: cancer

Derek Miller, Cancer and The End Game

This is a guest post written by my Community Manager Kat. Derek was a friend of mine for about six years, and his loss leaves a large hole in my heart and within the Gnomedex community.

On the morning of May 4th, 2011, I read fourteen words that stopped me in my tracks. Though I had been expecting them for weeks, I still felt this huge surge of denial. My friend of more than four years, Derek Miller, is now gone from this world. He wrote what was to be his final blog post not long before he died, and a family friend published it the morning after he left us. It was several hours before I could bring myself to read beyond those fourteen words.

“Here it is. I’m dead, and this is my last post to my blog.”

It’s not as though I’m new to this whole dying thing. Being forty years old, I have dealt with a lot of death in my lifetime: grandparents, two best friends, various relatives – and my hero… my big brother Jimmy. Though we shared a love of music, blogging and all things geeky, it was the story of my brother’s cancer – and death at the age of 36 – which brought Derek and I closer together as friends. When Derek announced late last fall that he had decided to give up treatment and live out the rest of his life HIS way, the connection began. I sent an email to him, telling him how my brother made the same decision… how strong he was, how he fought hard for so many years. Derek’s reply – he titled it “The End Game” – was one I will treasure forever. He later gave me permission to share this with all of you when the time came. Sadly, the time is now.

We always use the words fight and battle in conjunction with cancer. That’s what it seems like, you know? It’s not something we chose, and it’s so difficult to go through. It takes a horrible toll on the patient and their families – both mental and physical. It’s as though you’re fighting in a war… one you pray to win. In this reply, though, Derek taught me that having cancer isn’t a battle at all.

“I would change one word now, after four years: “fight.” I’ve used that word a lot too, but I’ve recently begun to change my tune. Why must it be a fight, a war or a battle? Those are stressful, soul-draining things, with images of violence and winners and losers.

I think less personally about my cancer than I used to. I fought it hard, I used to tell it to fuck off, I used to imagine the chemo snuffing it out like carpet bombing over Cambodia. More recently I’ve thought, no, cancer has no mind, no evil intent, no demon driving it.

I hate that it will kill me, and what that will do to my family. It’s sad and unfair. But there’s no one and nothing to blame. It’s a pure example of “shit happens.” Like your brother, my time has come to win the battle by not fighting anymore, by pushing back against the desire to treat the end of my life as a war and myself as a soldier. The human mind and heart deserve better than war, whether in Afghanistan or in the brain of a cancer patient.”

During the four years he had cancer, Derek blogged every step of his journey. His honesty and bluntness about what he was going through won the hearts of thousands from all over the world. Even a week later, people are mourning his loss on their social networks and blog pages. His story – and that of his final blog post – has been featured on websites such as CNN. Derek touched so many with his strength, his humor and his love of life.

Derek Miller touched me with his simple acceptance of what was to be. He helped me finally let go of the anger I still harbored towards my brother for giving up his treatments and leaving us… ten years ago. I hadn’t even realized it was still buried inside of me until Derek and I began talking. Of course it hurts to not have my big brother here, but it’s much easier to deal with now. I understand exactly where Jimmy was coming from… why he made the choices he did. I owe that understanding to Derek.

The penmachine was so full of life… passion… intelligence… love of friends and family… humor… wisdom. I have shed more than a few tears since learning of his passing. But I am doing my best not to break the promise I made to him a few months ago. It is a one that I hope each of you will vow to keep, as well.

Derek asked me not to mourn his death, but to use it as an example to others. He hoped that I could take what I learned from our friendship and use it to help people in similar situations. Cancer is evil, of that there is no doubt. It rips apart our lives and the world as we know it. But it doesn’t have to be a “fight.” It’s not a war. It’s an illness that we do our best to overcome. When there is no hope of surviving it, the way we choose to deal with the emotions, decisions and the end of our life is what people will remember.

Derek Miller will forever be remembered for the courage, strength, humor and dignity he carried with him until after he was gone. I only hope my loved ones can say the same about me one day, no matter what takes me from this Earth.

Goodbye, my friend. Thank you – for everything. To Airdrie, Marina and Lauren: please know that you have the love, prayers and thoughts of thousands of people with you. I hope that the strength we share with you will somehow be able to make its way into your hearts, bringing some measure of comfort and peace.

Why Should You Grow Up?

“I don’t wanna grow up, I’m a Toys “R” Us kid…” How many times have you sung this little ditty in response to someone mistaking you for an adult? I may be a tad closer to forty than thirty now, but I’ve often said that I refuse to grow up. I’ve come to learn this week, though, that there is a difference between growing up and allowing yourself to embrace your inner child as a responsible adult. There’s something to be said for figuring out what it is you want to do with this life, and then actually going out and doing it.

On Wednesday morning, I learned of the death of long-time friend Derek Miller. Derek had been battling cancer for several years, and decided with his wife and physician back in November to suspend treatment. He wanted to live the rest of his life on his own terms – in his own way. I admire him for that. I’m not sure I would have the courage to do the same thing.

My initial reaction to the news of his death was sadness, much like the rest of our community. I also became angry, railing at Fate or God or whoever decided it was “time” to take such a young and GOOD person from this Earth – from his family and friends. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, though, a different thought took shape. I began to ask myself what it is I can learn from Derek’s life and his too-soon death. After all, aren’t we supposed to learn and grow from every experience we go through?

It’s time to grow up. Stop wasting your time drifting through life. I’m not only talking about your education and career. Figure out the things that are truly important to you. Decide what you want to do with your life and freaking do it already. Who cares if you fail? At least get your butt out there and try. Forget waiting for someday to get here so you can learn to para-sail or program or whatever else it is you keep putting off. Someday isn’t ever coming, my friends.

Don’t waste your life. Go after your dreams, even if they seem impossible. Reach for the stars, push yourself beyond the limits you think you have and just generally light a fire under your ass. Work hard, play hard and let that inner child have fun along the way.

Live your life.

Subservient Chris to Raise Money for Cancer Research

Cancer is an ugly beast which leaves death and destruction in its wake. It doesn’t care who it goes after: a handsome little boy who has his Daddy’s eyes, a young woman with toddlers at home bravely hiding her pain from the kids or the grandmother is the cornerstone of the family. Cancer tries to mess with amazing friends like Drew Olanoff or Mike Kochansky. It comes like a thief in the night, attacking mercilessly that which we hold dear. I can guarantee that each and every one of you reading this has known someone who has been lost to some form of this disgusting disease. Cancer affects EVERYONE on some level. I am not a scientist or doctor. I cannot find a cure. I can, however, be me and help to raise money to help fund that cure by turning myself into Subservient Chris once again.

On Friday, May 13th – 6:00pm PST, several friends will descend upon my home and turn me into YOUR virtual slave. For a minimum ten-dollar donation, I will perform any completely crazy act you wish – within reason. I won’t do anything illegal, disgusting or degrading. In the past, I’ve been known to sing, dance, smear peanut butter on my face, place my dog on my head and wear a dress, high heels and makeup! I want you to be creative when thinking up your request, people. We are raising money for a very serious reason, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun while we do it! Give cancer a proverbial black eye by helping us gather donations for this very worthwhile cause.

My friends Liana and Michelle will once again participate in a race via Team in Training, and all proceeds from our event go directly to them. We will broadcast the entire thing live, and I’m sure many people plan to be around to record the insanity. You can begin sending your donations to [email protected] at any time, but please be sure to add a note to the PayPal form. Include your task for me or simply state you are donating to the cancer fundraiser so your contribution is easy to keep track of.

This year, our passion is much stronger to do as well as we can. Our efforts are being dedicated to our friend Derek Miller. Derek wrote and performed the Gnomedex song a couple of times, appeared as a floating head on the big conference screen a few years ago and is one hell of a great guy. A few months ago, Derek and his family made the incredibly tough decision to suspend treatment of his cancer and instead dedicate the rest of his time to living life in as peaceful a manner as possible. His strength, courage and humor during this time has been inspiring to so many of us. The end of his journey is quickly drawing near, but we will all continue to fight in his honor against this monster. Our thoughts and prayers are with Derek, his awesome wife Airdrie and their children during this difficult time.

UPDATE – Our friend Derek was freed from the confines of this life on May 3rd, 2011. His memory will forever live on in our minds and hearts.

Think of those you have lost… those who are fighting the battle…. those who have yet to begin their fight. Keep them all in mind and join us beginning at 6:00pm PST on May 13th.

For your enjoyment – and a sneak peak at what you can expect – take a few moments to watch the videos embedded below. They are some of the “best” moments captured during past Subservient Chris events… well, the best in someone else’s eyes, anyway. I’m not so sure about ever doing that whole peanut butter thing again, y’all!

Subservient Chris Raised Money for Cancer Research

Subservient Chris made an appearance again just the other night. This time, he was doing wacky things in order to help raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Community members (and awesome Gnomedex core volunteer members!) Liana and Michelle are both running in the Amica Seattle 1/2 Marathon on November 28. This half marathon is being held in conjunction with Team in Training, and both girls are working their proverbial butts off to get ready.

Thank you to the many community members who donated to this awesome cause on Monday night! If we don’t have your Twitter url linked to your name below, please drop me an email and I will get you added if you wish. Those of you who wished to remain anonymous are not on the list, but we are grateful to you just the same.

It’s not too late to donate to one (or both!) of the girls. Visit either Liana’s fund-raising page or Michelle’s fund-raising page to see how you can help – and exactly where your dollars will go.

A huge shout-out to the following people for participating on Monday:

It seems as though everyone has had their life touched by cancer in some way. It is because of people like Liana and Michelle that one day we WILL find a cure.

Social Media Battles Childhood Cancer

The first time I wrote about my friend Drew Olanoff, he was speaking at Gnomedex about his battle against cancer. Drew was given the all-clear not long after that, thankfully. However, he vowed to continue the fight against cancer and uses social media to help spread his message. He has a lot of creative ideas that don’t always get to see the light of day. His newest venture, however, made its debut tonight.

Drew and his friend @Natasha (yes, THAT Natasha) put their heads together to create @LightLeague. The charity venture brings together their love of social media, fundraising for charities – and kicking the shit out of cancer. LightLeague’s plan is simple yet powerful: “Shining Light on Charities through the Power of Community and Art.”

Drew and Natasha did just that tonight during their first live event. Drew recently moved into a new home on the beach. Natasha is, of course, a fantastic artist. They both love Twitter and the little bird. Drew loves the color orange. Both of them support Alex’s Lemonade. Natasha created an amazing piece of artwork for Drew and they opened up donations to the charity. Their goal for tonight was $999.00. They succeeded that by a few hundred dollars at last count. Every person who donated had their name painted into the picture at the end of the night.

The fight isn’t over for any of us. Cancer touches us all in ways we hoped to never have to deal with. Alex’s Lemonade strives to help fight cancer in children by raising awareness and money. Even though the art festivities have ended, you can still contribute to this fabulous cause if you choose. Every dollar – and every prayer – counts in this war on cancer.

You can create your own LightLeague event. Natasha is willing to travel to other locations to paint while helping to raise money for a charity that touches your heart. Together, we can make a difference.

What is the Nicest Thing You've Ever Done?

I couldn’t help but smile as I read a post on Geeks earlier. The original author reposted a story that she had read somewhere. There is no attribution, simply because it was originally posted online by someone who wished to remain anonymous. The story tells about a kind act the person did for a teenager in need. At the end of the story, the Geeks poster says that it always makes her smile, knowing that the World we live in isn’t so bad, after all.

I have to agree. This World really isn’t so bad. I witness and read about random acts of goodness on a daily basis. The work that my friend Mark Horvath is doing with homeless people touches my heart constantly. The work our buddy Drew Olanoff to help raise cancer awareness is astounding. People just like you are making a difference, one small random act of kindness at a time.

What is the nicest thing you’ve ever done for another person? It doesn’t matter if you did not help a homeless teenager and her baby return home. Every act, no matter how small they seem to you, make a big impact on someone’s life. Any time the opportunity arises to help someone else, we should grab it.

This wasn’t the only great thing posted in our community today. I’m proud to say that we have an amazing network of people, working hard every day to bring the latest news, reports, opinions and emotions to life within our small corner of the World.

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Have You Met Your Online Friends in Person?

I meet up with many people on a regular basis, thanks to things like Tweetups and conferences. Not everyone is so lucky, though. Often, deep and lasting friendships are formed online, but the people involved never have a chance to meet face-to-face. Many people maintain that it’s easier to make a strong connection with someone online, since you don’t have the fears and anxieties associated with how you look, or how you come across in person. Also, people tend to be more open about themselves when they are behind a computer screen, instead of hiding who they really are – and what they really think.

Have you ever met any of your online friends? How did it go? Was the friendship and connection as strong in person as it was while you were on the Internet? I’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts on this. I know that we have community members who met online, and later ended up engaged or married. I’m interested in seeing how many real friendships have sprung up, as well!

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When is Your Birthday?

I noticed around the web that we have three community members celebrating birthdays today! Traci Toguchi, Frank Eliason and Drew Olanoff will all be blowing out candles today. Now, normally I’d say a simple “Happy Birthday!” and be done with it. However, realizing today is Drew’s birthday gave me pause, and made me think…

Six months ago, Drew completely sure what his future held. He was diagnosed with cancer back in May, and the fight began. He finished up his last Chemo treatment a week ago, and the doctors have given him the awesome news that his tumors are gone. He is free of that stupid disease, hopefully forever. He continues his fight against Cancer, with the support of many thousands of people… including Drew Carey. In order to help raise money for the Livestrong foundation, all you have to do is click that little “Follow” button on Drew Carey’s Twitter page. For every follower – up to one million – that Drew gets prior to midnight on New Year’s Eve, he will donate one more dollar. How cool is that?

Thinking about all of this, and Drew O’s birthday, kind of puts life into perspective a little, eh? It makes one remember to stop and be thankful for what we have… right here, right now. It makes us want to push ourselves a little harder to do the things we promised ourselves we would do. It makes us want to reach out and tell those we care about that we do, in fact, love them.

Cancer touches everyone. EVERYONE. In some way or another, your life will be affected by Cancer at some point. Even though Drew’s personal fight may have come to an end, the war has only begun. Keep doing your part in kicking Cancer’s ass, everyone. We won’t rest until we eradicate it for good.

Birthdays aren’t the only thing going on in our community today, as you know. All of you are busy posting and writing, sharing your thoughts and dreams. What have you read that was interesting or thought-provoking? If I missed something, please leave a follow-up comment and share it with the rest of us!

Today in our downloads center, we have several excellent apps for Windows. Be sure to check them out!

[awsbullet:cancer handbook]

The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth

There’s an old saying in the Bible or some book that I don’t even remember for sure. It says “And the Geeks shall inherit the Earth”. A friend of mine argued with me the other night, claiming that it’s supposed to be the meek shall inherit the Earth. I beg to differ. I know what it says, thank you very much. We all know it’s pure fact that Geeks are taking over the World, and that we will one day rule inherit the World. Why haven’t you given in and joined us yet? You know you’re going to have to!

Seriously, being a Geek is an amazing thing. Geeks are not just computer guru’s, you know. A Geek is anyone who is passionate about something, whether it’s computers, motorcycles, or even gardening. Using this definition, it’s easier to imagine Geeks one day making a huge difference in this World of ours. What am I saying? We already have. Look at some of the strides in medicine, technology and science in just the past few years. There are an astounding number of new inventions, cures and gadgets on a daily basis.

If you could change the World somehow, make an impact so to speak, what would it be? Just imagine for a few moments that you have the brains/money/power to change any one thing. What would you do?

While you’re contemplating, make sure you take the time to check out what others are up to in our community!

Pink Friday

Two companies are turning “Black Friday” Pink. CompUSA and TigerDirect are doing an event this Friday, Nov. 28 to brand the day as “Pink Friday” for the second year in a row. They expect to raise more than $250,000 from a portion of total sales and from customer donations to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the world’s largest breast cancer organization. They are partnering with Ustream to deliver a live stream of the event. They will have the live stream on all the TVs in their stores, as well as on CompUSA and TigerDirect’s website, as well as on Ustream.

CompUSA and TigerDirect wanted to see if I would be interested in recording a quick video clip to say hi, put in a few words about the cause, and acknowledge the efforts to raise money for breast
cancer / Susan G. Komen for the Cure. I might even participate live on Friday, too.

The good news? CompUSA and TigerDirect are willing to make contributions to Susan G. Komen in our names for $5,000 since I’m participating (our names = those of you who subscribe to my RSS feed, podcast, YouTube channel, Twitter posts, etc.). So, thanks guys… for helping make this happen (as opposed to the way I said it in the video, as “help making this happen”).