Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Sweetest Thing!

What the hell is MESA?
  • A) A mesa (Spanish and Portuguese for table) is the American English term for tableland, an elevated area of land with a flat top and sides that are usually steep cliffs.
  • B) The Middle East Studies Association (MESA) is a non-political association that fosters the study of the Middle East.
  • C) Measurement, Evaluation, Statistics, and Assessment is topic of study for individuals who can function effectively in educational research and applied settings by providing rigorous training in quantitative and qualitative methodologies.
If you answered C, then you are correct!  MESA, for the purpose here is, Measurement, Evaluation, Statistics, and Assessment.  ...but it still leaves the question; What the hell is MESA?

Jen & Tony @ the Chicago Emmy Awards!
I bring this up, because one of my best friends in the whole world is Jen Sweet.  She is smart and is working on her PhD with MESA as her major...or she has come up with a gibberish code that nobody else can speak, so they may not know that she is just making things up.  And if that is the case, she is still very smart.

However, I am not even close to being smart, so when she tried to explain Mean Median and Mode to me, which she even drew a diagram...I just saw a bridge.

I often wondered why such a smart humanoid would want to spend time with a goof like me...It isn't that we have too many similar interests.  She likes to read, play video games and eat weird meals, and I really don't like any of those things.  However, we do both like watching TV, playing with Madi and always being correct about everything.  So, we got that!

I met Jen back in 2007, while I was still producing a weekly TV show.  We started to hang out together.  A purely platonic friendship quickly developed.  She joined me on some of my most memorable events.  Like, the Chicago Emmy Award ceremony.  A taping of The Jerry Springer Show.  Backstage to a Steve Miller Band concert.  I now had a cool friend to share some fun events with.

Occasionally, there is a communication problem, especially on attire.
On April 5, 2008, Jen started feeling strange.  She felt numbness on her left side of her body, followed by an extreme headache.  At first she thought that she had a stroke, but the symptoms didn't match.  She went to the hospital several times, and was given a few false diagnoses.  This made her think that she was a hypochondriac.  So, she became very persistent about her symptoms and after seeing a couple of doctors, they finally sent her for some basic neurological functioning testing.

On May 6, 2008, at age 29, Jen was diagnosed with a very rare and lethal glioneuronal brain tumor.

She had surgery, radiation and started on chemotherapy.  There is no known cure for her.  Only treatments.

Jen @ work
Despite side effects from the cancer and the treatments, Jen has continued to pursue a normal life.  She is working full-time and is continuing work toward her PhD. The long-term survival rate for this type of tumor is less than 10%, with "long-term survival" referring to living 3 or more years.

On May 6, 2013, Jen celebrated 5 years as a cancer survivor.

When she received the initial diagnosis, they figured that she probably had this tumor for over 10 years, that this type of tumor can suddenly start growing rapidly and malignantly after remaining small and benign for a long time. However, with Jen being so young and healthy, that she has everything going for her to beat this thing.

She is doing remarkably well and, much of the time, it's easy to forget that she has cancer.  We continued to have fun with one another, including seeing about 50 Broadway shows that came to Chicago.  However, my favorite times with her were spent doing normal everyday things, like watching TV.

Jen & her best friend Shannon
Jen's cancer is not the type of tumor will ever go into remission.  She has been on chemo for almost five years, with possibly some good news.  For the past three years, her tumor has been stable.  So, the doctors have ended her chemotherapy, for now.  They are concerned that the chemo will continue to damage her kidneys.  They are not sure if the tumor on it's own or because of the treatments.  The doctors will monitor her closely, and see if it remains the same without any chemo.

Jen is not alone with this, as there are over 700,000 people living with a brain tumor diagnosis, and each day, another 500 people are diagnosed.  This is why she has chosen to put her support behind the American Brain Tumor Association (ABTA).  ABTA is a great organization that has been providing assistance to brain tumor patients and caregivers for over 40 years.  They have been providing funding for research in the pursuit of breakthroughs in brain tumor diagnosis, treatment and care.

This Saturday, June 1st, is the 2013 Breakthrough for Brain Tumors Chicago 5K Run & Walk.  If you can not participate, please donate to the cause.

We are lucky enough to be walking with her, instead of in memory of...

Before one of her previous participation in this annual walk, she wrote the following in her public journal:

Additional research into brain tumor treatments (and ultimately a cure) is desperately needed.  This is why I am walking in the American Brain Tumor Association's "Path to Progress" event.  The ABTA provides critical funding to brain tumor research as well as support services to patients,as well as the families and caregivers of those affected by brain tumors.  I really hope everyone who reads my journal updates will consider donating to this important cause.  No amount is too small to make a difference in the lives of everyone affected by this terrible disease.  For the price of a night out to dinner or a trip to Starbucks, you could make a difference in the lives of everyone affected by this terrible diagnosis.

In the world of brain cancer, I am a "long-term" survivor.  No one should face a diagnosis where "long-term" survival is three years.  Most people with my diagnosis die in the first 18 months.  People with the diagnosis of GBM (the diagnosis in my medical records) do not usually make it past four months.  I am incredibly grateful for my good health and all of you have contributed to it through your support.  I really believe that with even a small contribution to the [ABTA] event , you will be able to support so many more people who face brain tumors.  I really hope you will consider contributing.  

This organization does so much important work and even a small amount will make a huge difference.

Thank you to all who donated, participated & supported my friend Jen and the American Brain Tumor Association!

 Tony Lossano, Broadcast Producer (TV & Radio, Chicago), amateur bicyclist, a fantastic dog walker, and has never been married to Alyssa Milano.

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