Cancer Survivors Offer Hope through Imerman Angels

Jim Higley was a single father of three when his doctor accidentally ran a PSA blood test during his annual physical five years ago.

Higley, of Kenilworth, was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Had it not been caught, he likely would not have lived more than one or two years.

Today, Higley is a cancer survivor and walking, talking, living proof that cancer can be beaten. Thanks to Imerman Angels, he’s now mentoring young men who have been diagnosed with early age prostate cancer.

A free service for cancer patients, Imerman Angels was created by Chicago resident Jonny Imerman, who was 26 when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Although he had the support of his family and friends, Imerman wished he knew someone who had been through the same thing. His not-for-profit organization matches cancer fighters with a “Mentor Angel,” someone who is the same age and gender and who has survived the same type of cancer.

Higley says, “Sometimes all that is wanted or needed are a few phone calls where we can talk candidly about a variety of issues from surgery, recovery, emotions, relationships–you name it. Other times, it involves face time together and a very personal connection.”

Rebecca Reznick of Deerfield was 16 when she was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a form of cancer found in the tissues of the body. After surviving her diagnosis, she became a mentor at Imerman Angels. Rebecca was paired with a 17-year-old girl from California who was fighting the same type of cancer. Rebecca was able to support her by answering questions about what to expect during treatments and what it’s like to lose your hair.

Reznick says, “One of the best aspects of the partnering is hearing from another survivor, `I got through it and you can get through it too.’”

“When a person is diagnosed with cancer, their world is usually turned upside down,” Higley says. “They may have the best medical team. They may have fabulous family and friends who would walk through fire for them. But if a cancer patient doesn’t have someone who has walked in their shoes, it can be a very lonely – and scary – journey. Imerman Angels provides one of the most important things every cancer patient deserves and needs — hope.”

If you or someone close to you has just been diagnosed with cancer, Imerman Angels can help. And if you aren’t a cancer survivor or patient, you can still be involved through volunteer opportunities and events. Visit www.imermanangels.org or call 877-274-5529.