Help Aaron Aites Beat Cancer

$40,898 of $50,000 goal

Raised by 414 people in 35 months
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Audrey Ewell
on behalf of Aaron Bandur
 BROOKLYN, NY
Filmmaker and musician Aaron Aites (Until The Light Takes Us, 99%, Iran) is in the fight of his life.  He has been diagnosed with an aggressive kidney cancer.

Aaron and I met in San Francisco while working at an environmental nonprofit. In early 2001, we shot our first joint documentary film, Until The Light Takes Us. We’ve been together ever since, making films, and taking care of one neurotic rescue pup and three badly behaved cats from the streets of NY.


Aaron is my life partner, my creative partner and my best friend.  He has a sweetness that comes out especially with those in need, and a quick inquisitive mind.  He explores the world through his art, in his films and with his band, Iran, and other music projects.

On January 15, we found ourselves in the emergency room. Aaron had been sick for months, he'd lost over 40 pounds and missed numerous days from work. His family doctor told him it was bronchitis. But he got sicker and sicker, and he kept going back for answers, for help.  Finally, the ER doctor delivered the news: Aaron had a very large tumor (renal cell carcinoma)
in his kidney.

Just three days before  that, I'd lost my job. And Aaron was too sick to work anymore. It was a tough day. 

Funds raised here will go toward treatment costs, alternative therapies (most of which are not covered at all) healthy food and living expenses, and transportation and lodging for the many doctors, hospitals and clinics he must visit.

And though this cancer is hard to beat, we're going to fight like hell, researching all alternatives and doing every last thing we can to improve his chances.

We know how to research, and we're used to doing the impossible. On our film Until The Light Takes Us, we got access to an underground scene that no other outsider had been able to get close to, and made what has become a cult film about a misunderstood subject.  Our most recent documentary was 99% - a collaborative film we founded and helmed about the Occupy Wall Street movement and the escalating inequality that unfairly stacks the odds against everyday people. We put in 100-hour weeks for over a year, managed an international team of 100+ filmmakers, and I'll be honest, the project seemed impossible every single day. But a year and a half later, the film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, a top festival that gets over 12,000 submissions and programs less than 200. From there we placed it with a great distributor, Participant Media, who bring socially relevant films to light. We’ve beat the odds before and we can do it again. 

But our lack of funds limits the decisions we can make about pursuing Aaron’s care options. This is where your help makes the difference.  We want to explore all treatment possibilities, like accessing cutting edge personalized oncology and metabolic medicine that has the potential to improve any future outcomes and greatly extend Aaron’s life. There are new drug trials taking place all over the country, and there’s a new immunotherapy trial that’s particularly promising. We want to test for genetic drivers of the cell mutation, which might point us in a better direction faster.


Aaron is strong - I’ve never met a stronger, kinder or more compassionate man - but he needs help. Even when his acerbic humor masks it, he’s always the first to help someone in need, to take in a bunch of abused animals and nurse them back to health, and with his art?  Aaron tries to give something of truth and sustenance to the world.  Now we need to help Aaron heal.

If you've enjoyed Aaron’s music or films, been moved by them or taken strength or inspiration from them, please help. Or if you just know him and know what a great guy he is, please help Aaron beat this cancer and live. He has a lot more to do in this world. We've been working on a new film and we WILL make it.

In the midst of all this, there is joy: We’re getting married. I proposed to him, the night we got back from the emergency room. We were huddled together in bed, wondering what the future holds for us, and I told him it held at least one thing: our wedding. He’s wanted to get married for ages, and after 15 years, I'm pretty sure he's a keeper.

Thank you. If you know anyone else who may be interested in helping, please share this.  Every little bit counts.
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Update 2
Posted by Audrey Ewell
33 months ago
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Aaron is gone. He died in his sleep, and he was not in pain. He battled so, so hard, was so brave, so loving, such a good man throughout. His brain was still fighting, but his body couldn't go any further. We could never quite catch up to it, no matter what we tried. And we tried so hard. I had hope until the very end. More importantly, so did he. You guys made that possible. Your kindness and generosity let us battle with all our might, with total focus. For those of us who live on without him, we have the comfort of knowing that we did absolutely everything we could. That he wasn't denied anything that might have helped. And we were able to take care of him properly, completely, to alleviate his worries about money and costs, to give him every chance and with so much love and support from those of us on the ground and from all of you.

Thank you. He was a truly amazing man. I want to think that there is someone or something out there plucking our best and he made the cut. His intelligence, warmth and love made him the kind of person who inspires others to be their best selves. He gave so much to the world and to the people whose paths he crossed. Please honor him and his legacy however you see fit. Please know that your help made a difference. A friend mentioned the Ram Dass quote the other day, that "we are all just walking each other home."

We walked Aaron home, surrounded by love.

And I want to say this, please bear with me, as the sun comes up for the first time in a world without Aaron in it by my side. We are all afraid. We're all in pain. We're all insecure. We want to be loved, but we're afraid to be vulnerable. We want to do things of value, but maybe we don't know how to begin, or we secretly fear that we're frauds, that we're not good enough. Maybe we never begin, or we do what we think others want, because we're afraid that we won't survive, afraid that we won't be loved, or appreciated.

Because we all want to be better people, but we sometimes (or mostly) do what we have to, to survive. We fight over scraps, view each other as potential enemies. Cover our soft underbellies and hurry on our way. When what we really need to do to be safe, to be whole, is to walk each other home. Not in death, but in life. To look out for each other. To be open to the truth that another might offer.

I was so lucky to spend so much of my life with a beautiful man, a deeply loving soul. And to be loved by him. To be sustained and nourished by his love. And I'm a total mess, a sometimes terrible person, an occasional insecure monster. But I was loved by an amazing man. And if I can be loved, anyone can. Everyone can. You can. So I guess my preference would be that you honor his life by letting down your guard a little bit. By loving someone, or by loving everyone a little bit more. And to keep in mind that every single person you meet wants to be loved, wants to connect, wants deep down to love you. And that you don't have to be afraid. Because we're all together in that fear. We all intrinsically understand each others pain and fear. None of us is alone, even when it really truly terribly feels that way. There are billions of us, all feeling the same way. So do it anyway. Let others in. Be available to others. Be open to love. Be open to the truth of other people.

OK. That's it. Thank you all again. I am feeling deep, terrible pain and sadness right now at the loss of so much love, of my person, my home, my safe haven in the world. Many of us are deeply mourning this loss right now. But we are all mourning something, or someone. We have all lost. So let's find each other. And let's walk each other home. Aaron loved you all.
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Update 1
Posted by Audrey Ewell
33 months ago
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There's a lot happening, and we want to fill you in. Aaron's back in NY where his friends are taking care of him like family and keeping me sane(ish) too. <3

He has a new oncologist who's working a little outside the box (very, very welcome). We're also working with a scientist in CA, and we have a consulting medical doctor and naturopath who specializes in tough cancers. Next week, Aaron's starting a new medicine regimen. Two, actually. Exciting things are afoot.

To help pay for all this, there are a couple benefits taking place this week. Like, right now! These are for the music lovers. On the metal side, there's Grimposium: a series in NY and Philly with film screenings, bands, panels and discussions. All proceeds benefit Aaron. We want to thank the organizer, Canadian professor and metal studies scholar Vivek Venkatesh (and a giant shout out to Albert Mudrian at Decibel for connecting us). So if you're in NY or Philly and you're into metal, this is a great way to help out: http://grimposium.com/benefit-for-aaron-aites/

And for the rockers (and lovers, ahem), our friends from Thee Oh Sees and TV on The Radio are auctioning several items (read about them here: http://pitchfork.com/news/64769-tv-on-the-radio-and-thee-oh-sees-offer-collectibles-in-benefit-auction/) to help Aaron pay for his new medicine and treatments. Which are kind of insanely expensive. So thank god for our amazing friends and our community of artists and generally awe-inspiring good-hearted people. That definitely includes you!

So onward into the future. We have a lot to do. Please help us out by sharing these links! xoxo

Rock auction: http://pitchfork.com/news/64769-tv-on-the-radio-and-thee-oh-sees-offer-collectibles-in-benefit-auction/

Grimposium: http://grimposium.com/benefit-for-aaron-aites/
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$40,898 of $50,000 goal

Raised by 414 people in 35 months
No Longer Accepting Donations
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Created February 14, 2016
Audrey Ewell
on behalf of Aaron Bandur
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