Jerry Cahill, 55, is the Volunteer Director for Scholarships and Transplant Grants at the Boomer Esiason Foundation. Jerry also hosts a regular CF podcast and produces the CF Wind Sprints video series, and he recently launched the You Cannot Fail campaign. For more information, visit Jerry’s page in the CF Stories section of our website.
As many of you already know, National Donate Life Month took on a literal interpretation for me this year. On Wednesday, April 18, I received a double-lung transplant. The surgery was a success; my new lungs are working well, and I’m getting stronger every day.
And now, with the annual Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Month celebration kicking off today, I want to share a few thoughts about the importance of these two campaigns, what they mean to me, and what they should mean to the CF community.
Most of us in the cystic fibrosis community are acutely aware of the importance of organ donation. While people with CF have more therapies available today than ever before to help us live longer and more productive lives, these drugs can only do so much. When our lungs deteriorate to a point where therapies offer little relief, lung transplantation is our only option.
Nearly 113,000 people in the United States are waiting for organ transplants, including 1,700 who need lung transplants. Every 80 minutes, somebody on a transplant waiting list dies without getting the opportunity to return to their families, friends and communities and to live a normal, healthy life. Why? Because there is a shortage of available organs.
Thanks to the forward-thinking of my 37-year-old donor and the generosity of his family, I now am one of those incredibly fortunate transplant recipients who has been given a second chance at life. And believe me, I’m not going to waste it.
Donate Life America is working hard to register 20 million organ donors in 2012. They can’t do it alone and need our help. I urge each of you to register as an organ, eye and tissue donor. Laws overseeing donation vary from state to state, so visit www.DonateLife.net to find out how to designate your decision. And if you already are registered as an organ donor, be sure to inform your family of your wishes, and then encourage them to register as well.
Spreading the word about organ donation goes hand in hand with raising awareness of cystic fibrosis. May is CF Awareness Month, and again, the occasion holds even more meaning for me this year than it has in years past.
The CF community is relatively small and tight-knit, and sometimes, it’s easiest to keep our focus inward, drawing strength from others who are facing the same challenges. But I’ve learned a valuable lesson from my friend Boomer Esiason and my colleagues at the Boomer Esiason Foundation: The fight against cystic fibrosis will not be won without the support and participation of people outside our community.
Today, I pledge to personally redouble my efforts to tell the world about this disease, about the incredible people who deal with it every day and about the burgeoning need we have for support. I will continue to work with Boomer and BEF to use every tool available to achieve our twin goals of funding research for a cure and providing programs and direct assistance for the CF community.
Are you in?
Please consider this my personal appeal to make a difference in the fight against CF simply by speaking up. Talk about it with your colleagues, classmates, sports team, book group or anyone who might not be aware of the disease and how it affects you. Share information on Facebook, tweet it on Twitter, and post about it on LinkedIn. Tell your story, and people will listen. Some may even ask how they can help.
Before I close, I want to remind you of the mantra that has kept me going not just over the past couple of weeks, but for most of my life: YOU CANNOT FAIL. I’ve been working with BEF to turn that mantra into a full-fledged campaign to benefit the CF community and anyone else coping with chronic illness or facing a difficult situation. Thanks to social media and other outreach, the You Cannot Fail campaign is gaining traction, and I can’t wait to get back on my feet so I can work to keep the momentum moving.
Many of you have asked what you can do to show support for me during my recovery. The cards, letters and photos are great – I really appreciate knowing that so many of you are thinking about me. If you feel like doing a bit more, please consider purchasing something from the You Cannot Fail campaign at www.esiason.org/youcannotfail – a book, t-shirt, paperweight or wristband. Proceeds from the sales of these products support a new You Cannot Fail scholarship and other programs to benefit the CF community. Knowing that the You Cannot Fail program is continuing to grow would give me a boost, too.
Thanks to each of you for your thoughts and prayers, support and encouragement; together, we are making a difference in the fight against CF.