The American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) presented the 2014 Survivor Circle Award to San Francisco Bay Area resident and cancer survivor Jasan Zimmerman during ASTRO’s 56th Annual Meeting held recently in San Francisco. The Survivor Circle Award recognizes a cancer survivor who lives in the ASTRO Annual Meeting host city and who has dedicated his or her time and energy in service and support of their local community.
“Volunteering was always a part of my life, instilled in me by my parents, so when I was finally comfortable enough to share my story, it was easy to find volunteer opportunities in the cancer advocacy world,” Mr. Zimmerman said. “The benefits of volunteering are twofold for me: every time I share my story, it helps me come to terms with and accept my experiences a little more, and externally, I can see positive changes in the lives of other people based on the work that I have done, whether directly or indirectly.”
Neuroblastoma at 6 Months, Thyroid Cancer at 15 Years, and Recurrence at 21 Years
Mr. Zimmerman was diagnosed in 1976, at 6 months old, with neuroblastoma of the left neck. The tumor was removed, and he was treated with upper mantle radiation therapy at Loma Linda University Medical Center. In 1991, at age 15, Mr. Zimmerman was then diagnosed with thyroid cancer and had a thyroidectomy at the University of California Irvine Medical Center and radiation therapy at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage. He experienced a recurrence of thyroid cancer in 1997 at age 21 and underwent radiation therapy at the University of California Irvine Medical Center. In 2004, after Mr. Zimmerman finished graduate school and moved to the Bay Area, he felt like something was missing in his life. He read about a local support group in the paper and decided to attend. During those meetings, he met other group members who were involved in advocacy for cancer patients, and he realized that he had experiences and knowledge to share as a pediatric and young adult cancer survivor.
“I never had a conscious ‘moment of inspiration,’ but slowly, I became more and more involved in advocating for the psychosocial support of pediatric and young adult cancer survivors,” Mr. Zimmerman said. “I don’t want people to have the negative experiences that I had when I was sick, such as depression, anger, and being treated as a child instead of as a young adult who could make my own decisions. I really enjoy helping people and connecting them with resources that can make their lives easier.”
Mr. Zimmerman has volunteered in multiple events and programs for cancer survivors and children and young adults with cancer. These have included serving as a member of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation Cancer Patient Advisory Council since 2010; and since 2012, a member of the planning committee for Courageous Kids, an annual American Cancer Society. Mr. Zimmerman has also served as a Super Advocate for the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship from 2008 to 2011 and a Patient Services Committee member for Cancer CAREpoint in San Jose from 2011 to 2013. He has also reviewed cancer research grants for the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program and spoken about survivorship to various groups, including the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Relay for Life, and Stupid Cancer’s 2014 OMG! Cancer Summit for Young Adults.
“Volunteering has helped me learn about resources that impact my own survivorship, like seeking out a treatment summary and survivorship care plan. I’ve met lots of great people who have educated and mentored me, and I’m so grateful for their support, care, and leadership.”
“ASTRO is honored to present Mr. Zimmerman with the 2014 Survivor Circle Award,” said Bruce G. Haffty, MD, FASTRO, President of ASTRO’s Board of Directors. “His dedication to helping other cancer survivors and his willingness to share his story with so many others, particularly other pediatric and young adult cancer survivors, are an inspiration. He is an excellent example of the importance of caring for and supporting our patients—from diagnosis through survivorship.” ■