I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in 2017 and given 6 – 10 months left to live even with treatment. Life felt out of control for me, my wife, and our two young children. Even with the great support of our friends and family, we were struggling to deal with it all. The Family Night program at Gilda’s was a tremendous help to our entire family; the support we received was something we could never fully repay. You can view my full story here.

I’ve been incredibly lucky and defied the odds. My scans have shown no evidence of disease for almost two years, and am living with the hope that I have beaten this. While we no longer go to Family Night, I do attend a different Gilda’s Club group to help navigate life after cancer. We fundraise for Gilda’s to help them support others the way they supported us.

Like many other survivors, after my battle came a search for opportunities to step outside my comfort zone and do things I never would have considered before cancer. Last summer the perfect opportunity came along. Gilda’s Club created a new event called Over the Edge. If participants raised enough money, they got the chance to rappel down the side of the Hilton on the Monona Terrace (14 stories). While I’ve never had a fear of heights, I’ve never been the most adventurous person either. This was something I never would have done pre-cancer, and it allowed me to raise money for an organization that meant so much to our whole family.

TJ at Over the Edge
TJ at Over the Edge

With only a slight bit of hesitation, I signed up and started to fundraise. Before I knew it, it was the day of the event. There were a lot of different emotions that day, but surprisingly fear wasn’t one of them. There were a number of safety checks and training, not to mention trained professionals taking care of us. Included in my group were a friend from my Family Night group, Renee as well as a friend from work, Paul. The experience was incredible and something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

During that day, I found myself thinking of people who had lost their battle with cancer. In the months leading up to the event, we lost a couple of members from our Family Night group. All of them had made a huge impact in my life and helped me so much while I navigated the pain and uncertainty of my cancer journey. The person I thought about most was my close friend Matt, who had lost his battle with a rare cancer the year before. Our families had been friends for many years and became members of Gilda’s Club to attend Family Night together. It was yet another way that we found to support each other.

Obviously Gilda’s Club means so much to families impacted by cancer who find comfort and strength in the programs they provide. I made connections there that will impact me for the rest of my life. I was completely unaware of their mission before I got cancer, but now I’m so grateful that it was there for us. I would urge you to support them if you can, and you don’t need to jump off the side of a building to do it.