I’m Steve Martin. Not the famous “wild and crazy guy” Steve Martin; although my life just took a wild and crazy turn. None of us ever think we’ll be sharing our story with friends, family, and strangers on a Go Fund Me page, but here I am, asking for help. Your help.
I’ve just been diagnosed with cancer and life for me and my family is about to change drastically. When I say that I have a lump in my throat as I write this, I mean it quite literally.
The short story is that after working my entire life in the insurance industry – 32 years to be exact, my job was eliminated in July, 2017 and came to an end in mid-August. With that, I lost all my benefits – health insurance, short and long term disability insurance, and life insurance. I’m 57 years old with a wife and children, so I didn’t waste any time looking for another job.
A week after learning that my job was cut, I had a sore throat, brought on, I thought, by the stress of finding myself unemployed. I went to my doctor, and after testing negative for strep, went to an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist on September 29th, who saw something in my throat. It was a mass, so I was quickly scheduled for a biopsy on October 4th. After coming to after surgery, I could tell by the look on my wife’s face that it wasn’t good news. She wouldn’t tell me much more other than “they think it’s cancer.” My wife, Trish, is a 24-year cancer survivor. She lost both her dad and first husband at very young ages to cancer. I can’t bear to think that she has to journey this road again, but we will journey it together and I am so very grateful to have her and my children by my side.
I received the confirmation from my doctor on, of all days, Friday the 13th. It’s Stage 4 throat cancer that has extended to my tongue, voice box, and lymph nodes. Unlike other types of cancer, stages of throat cancer are not tied to mortality, and my doctor says that I have a 50% chance of beating this completely. Being competitive, I plan to beat this 100%. I’m not a candidate for surgery, so on November 6, 2017, I will begin 35 radiation treatments, Monday through Friday, which will soon rob me of my ability to eat and speak. At the same time, I’ll receive chemotherapy once a week with the strong hope and faith that this aggressive treatment will cure me. I’ve already suffered some weight loss, which will continue and is common with this type of cancer, so I will be undergoing surgery to have a feeding tube placed in the coming weeks.
Speaking of treatment, it was a tough decision to post the picture of me in my radiation mask. I know it’s disturbing to look at, but it is the picture that speaks a thousand words and it was important for me to show you how cancer redefines how we look at ourselves and our lives. It captures the courage I am trying to have and the vulnerability I can’t deny. It’s a snapshot of the unexpected roads we find ourselves on. My life – shown in the other pictures posted – changed in an instant. It was a terrifying process to have this mask made and molded to me. I tried to stay calm, but it was really unnerving especially when I was bolted to the table. There are no words to accurately describe it, but in that moment, I realized that cancer can literally pin you down. This is the truth of my new reality and I know it’s not pretty. The only upshot to this is that next year I will own a pretty frightening custom-made Halloween mask.
My family is everything to me, and breaking the news to my children, dad, siblings and extended family was extremely difficult. I have always been the healthy one supporting all of my family & friends through various life challenges. Now I am the one that will be needing help. I am fortunate to have such a strong and supportive family, and I know I can count on them to be with me every step of this journey. My daughter Michelle, who lives in Boston is planning to come down for my first treatment which will be an all-day event. My son Kyle, who is on the autism spectrum is my “rock”. He is an avid golfer and starter on the High School Golf team. His response to my diagnosis was a simple “Dad, you’ll beat this – you always win, plus I need my Golf partner”
I’m not the type of man who has ever asked for help of any kind, so this is really hard for me.
My hope is to remain in my home and support my family. This will be challenging given that my doctor says that I will be unable to look for work until at least next March, 2018. My unemployment benefits, which are a fraction of my normal pay will run out in early February. With the loss of my benefits, I was fortunate enough to qualify for State Insurance (Obamacare), just before my diagnosis. I am asking for your help to get me through this temporary rough patch by donating anything you can. I’ve based my fund-raising request on the gap that needs to be covered in living expenses for this coming year, as well as any of the medical bills I may incur. I honestly didn’t know how to set a finite goal because life is anything but definitive right now, but I will work hard to come back from all of this.
In the meantime, here’s what I do know…
I’ve been a recreational runner my whole life. At age 40, I started to train and qualify for marathons. In the past 17 years, I have run in 58 marathons. I’ve run three of the six World Marathon Majors consistently…Boston Marathon seven times; Chicago, nine times; New York, three times. Haven’t done Toyko, London, or Berlin…YET! I was looking forward to running my 10th Chicago Marathon this past October 8, 2017, but I had just received my cancer diagnosis, so instead I ran the Hartford half-marathon.
There’s both extreme fulfillment and discomfort in running long distances. You endure pain for long periods of time, but you always know that the finish line is just ahead. Running marathons is all about mental and physical preparation, and realistic goal-setting. Running a 26.2 mile marathon is like running 8 ½ 5Ks. So when I’m on the course, I break it down, thinking “one 5K down, 7 ½ to go. Two 5Ks down, 6 ½ to go…” Along the way, I lose myself in the beauty of my surroundings and I fuel myself with positive thoughts, the blessings in my life, my accomplishments, and the good times spent with family and friends. Being a marathoner has prepared me well for what lies ahead.
I have to stay positive and stay focused on the future, so my short-term goal is to run the Chicago Marathon on October 7, 2018. I received a medical deferment for this year’s race, so I am automatically qualified for next year. My long-term goal is to run 60 marathons by age 60. Between now and then, there will be plenty to deal with and raising some much-needed funding is a priority.
In addition to any financial support you can provide, I appreciate your help as my “Pace Team.” In a marathon, a pace team is a group of runners led by an experienced leader who run together at a steady pace so they can achieve their goal of finishing the marathon at a particular time. I know that there will be days ahead that I will face physical and emotional pain. There have already been moments where I have felt overwhelmed and immobilized. That’s why, even though I’ve always been a solitary runner, I know that I will benefit from a Pace Team – friends, family, and strangers who will keep me and my family in their prayers and on occasion who can give a motivational shout-out so I can keep my pace and my spirits strong.
As I prepare to lose some of my physical strength and ability to communicate, I will rely on my family and the power of social media to keep you informed of my progress.
There are three things I think about when running marathons…a good start, a steady pace, and a strong finish. I will apply the same mental strategy to my health challenge in the days, weeks, and months ahead. I am in the race of my life…and I plan to cross the finish line. Thanks for running this life marathon with me and for me. And in that spirit…
On your mark, get set, Go Fund Me…please!
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