Do the Numbers Tell the Full Story?

I’m back! I haven’t written a new blog post in nearly eight months due to serious health issues. Now, as my recovery progresses, I feel compelled to return to my blog as I have much to share with you. Thank you for your support and patience.

I want to take this opportunity to update you about what the past several months have been like for me while making a useful fundraising point that I believe will be of benefit to you.

Like you, as the end of the year approaches, I’ve been inundated with direct mail, e-mail, and telephone fundraising appeals. Many of these appeals focus on numbers. For example, I’ve read about how one organization won several awards for its theater productions, how another has a $10,000 challenge grant, how another needs to raise an additional $50,000 to meet its goal, and how yet another has helped feed over 500 people during Thanksgiving.

On the other hand, I also received an appeal from the Philadelphia Children’s Alliance, which brings justice and healing to the survivors of child sexual abuse. The appeal, which stood out from the pack, told the story of one child, 5-year-old Sarah. Reading about Sarah’s situation, I learned how PCA helped her. In addition to Sarah’s compelling story, the appeal mentioned that PCA also provided services to over 3,500 other children in need over the past year.

Which charity do you think I’m most likely to support? If you guessed PCA, you’re right.

While numbers can tell part of the story, they can’t convey the whole story the way that sharing the experience of one individual can. Sharing someone’s personal story can make a cause relatable, more real, and more compelling. Stories tap into emotions that statistics simply cannot.

Now, let me try to do a bit of both. I want to update you about my personal situation while using some numbers.

Regular readers of my blog know that I have suffered from the exceedingly rare Appendicial Carcinoma with Pseudomyxoma Peritonei (PMP). I’ve been open about my situation for three years so that readers would understand when I stepped away temporarily and so that others suffering with PMP would know that I am willing to be a resource for them. If you want to learn more about my journey, just search “Pseudomyxoma Peritonei” on this site.

I was diagnosed with late-stage PMP in 2014. My doctors suspect it had been growing in me undetected for nearly a decade. Two months after diagnosis, I underwent successful major surgery. Unfortunately, the cancer came back in 2015. While chemotherapy kept it in check for several months, surgery was again required in April 2017.

This time around, my primary surgery in April was 14 hours long. My follow-up surgery in June was two hours.

I was in the hospital for a combined total of 40 days from April to June. That includes my initial hospital stay, two readmissions for complications, and one follow-up surgery stay.

During my three-month treatment period from April through June, I read 10 books. Hey, I couldn’t always rely on television for good entertainment. I would have read even more books if it wasn’t for the painkillers.

Lisa, my wife, and I spent nearly one-quarter of the year in Pittsburgh, home to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Shadyside Hospital where I received expert treatment.

I went into the hospital weighing an already diminished 146 pounds. I exited at about 112 pounds. I’m now over 130 pounds and gaining toward my goal of 150 or more. (If anyone wants to help fatten me up, I’m available for lunches. 🙂 )

When we took the train to Pittsburgh, the trip took about seven hours plus time to get to and from the train. When we drove home, the trip took six hours, including a few stops along the way.

A few weeks following my primary surgery, I had one fantastic burger from Tessaro’s, my favorite burger place in Pittsburgh. Eating that perfectly cooked, wood-fire grilled burger made me begin to feel like myself again after too many months on a highly restricted diet.

While in Pittsburgh, I also ate king crab legs two times, a recovery and birthday treat. I’d never had them before. They were great, and now I’m hooked. See, something good can definitely come from something bad.

While we haven’t yet seen all of the medical bills, we estimate that they will come in around $1 million or more. Thank goodness for excellent health insurance. The Affordable Care Act is far from perfect; however, it at least removed the lifetime benefit cap, otherwise we’d be in deep trouble now. Unfortunately, there are other significant expenses that are not covered. As many have learned, even with great insurance, getting sick is costly.

At present, my doctors consider tell me I have “no detectible cancer.” Nevertheless, my medical team will continue to closely monitor my health with quarterly blood tests and CT Scans.

Now, let me reveal the most important number of all: One, as in one great wife. Over the past several months (actually well beyond that), Lisa has been nothing short of heroic. I can’t imagine how I would have made it through the challenges without her as my champion by my side, and racing around to make sure I was well cared for.

While the numbers I’ve shared tell part of my story, they can’t convey the horror and joy I’ve felt over the past eight months or three years of my battle. The numbers don’t let you know that I was able to find great humor even during my darkest hours. The statistics also can’t help you understand the expertise and compassion of my doctors and nurses. Also, numbers don’t do a good job of demonstrating resilience and recovery.

However, I’ll spare you the details. Just know that numbers can only tell part of my story or, for that matter, any story. When it comes to fundraising, successful development professionals know it’s important to appeal to both hearts and minds. Donors want to make a positive difference. Help them understand how they can save or enrich a life.

Throughout my fight, I’ve had folks ask me how they can help or if they can join the fight by making a donation. While I will not make a donation appeal to you, I will invite you to support one or both of the following causes if you have ever derived value from my blog posts and wish to stand by me.

Depending on which research you want to believe, PMP afflicts between one in 100,000 and one in 1-million people. In either case, that means PMP is a so-called “orphan” disease that attracts relatively few research dollars because the disease is so rare. Dr. David Bartlett, my primary oncologic surgeon, is one of a small group of PMP researchers worldwide. To help fund his research, you can make a gift to UPMC:

By Mail:

Office of Development, UPMC Cancer Pavilion, Suite 1B, 5150 Centre Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15232

By Telephone:

412-623-4700

Online:

Visit the University of Pittsburgh donor website.

Regardless of how you make your gift, be sure to designate it to “Dr. David Bartlett PMP Research Projects.”

Both in preparation for my surgeries and as part of my recovery, I have found yoga classes to be enormously helpful, both physically and mentally. Michelle Stortz, an impressively dedicated Philadelphia-based certified yoga therapist, has designed highly effective yoga programs specifically for those engaged in a battle with cancer; her website provides terrific information including an online mini-course. To provide “scholarships” for those in need who cannot afford the cost of yoga classes and to help offset the costs of the creation of online programs, Michelle accepts support:

Online:

You can visit Michelle’s GoFundMe page by clicking here.

If you choose to support Dr. David Barlett’s PMP research and/or Michelle Stortz’s yoga program, I thank you.

Finally, if you have tried to contact me this year, and I have not responded, please accept my apology and know that I have not intentionally ignored you. While I am working hard to catch up with my professional life, the best thing you can do is reach out to me again so that we can be sure to connect sooner rather than later. Again, thank you for your support and patience during what has been an extremely challenging year.

Now that I’m back, let me know if you’d like to explore the ways I can help you reach or exceed your fundraising goals.

That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?

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20 Responses to “Do the Numbers Tell the Full Story?”

  1. Hi, Michael, so glad to hear you’re back, awesome!!! And yes, your wife sounds tremendous! Have a great holiday! Cheers, Erica

  2. Michael, You and Lisa are both heroes in my book. I missed you and am glad that you’re back. I know what it’s like dealing with health issues and worrying about what happens to our health care going forward! G_d bless you and Lisa!

  3. So glad you are on the mend, Michael, it’s great to see another article from you. Thank you for illustrating your important point with such touching, personal and relevant examples. And for including some remarkable organizations in your post. Despite your own challenges, you are still thinking of others.

  4. Welcome back, Michael!

  5. All the very best to you. So happy to hear of your strength and spirit.

  6. Hi Michael, welcome back. I’ve missed you and am pleased that you’re on the mend. The U.K. Is freezing cold this morning, but reading your recent post has made the world feel a little warmer. I thank you for that and look forward to more posts.

  7. Michael, Welcome back. You have been in my prayers. Thank you for sharing your story so openly. I am someone who has been in Lisa’s position of caregiver, advocate, keeper-of-the-medical-status, etc., and I can appreciate what is involved in facing cancer–both the trials and the many little miracles that happen every day.

  8. YAY!!! So glad to hear your update. Warm wishes that you will fully enjoy the upcoming Holiday season and a health 2018.
    As one of the few Fundraising experts I follow, I am very happy that you are back at work sharing your valuable insights.

  9. So happy you are back! Had been thinking of you just recently and wondering how you were doing.

  10. It’s great to have you back, Michael! Best wishes as you continue to recover.

  11. So good to have you back, Michael. So happy to hear of your recovery.

  12. Welcome back, Michael! So glad to read you’re on the road to recovery!

    If you’re ever in MA – let me know & I’ll take you out for lunch.

    I cried when you got to the “one amazing wife” part.

    When I had my own medical issues last year, my husband was my rock. I wouldn’t be in such a good place right now without him.

    And I have some good personal news to share: I’m pregnant with our 1st child – due 12/30. So I’ll be taking time off to raise the baby & will make myself available for lunch out if you’re in MA. 🙂

    One of my friends runs a nonprofit for young adult cancer survivors and their tagline is “cancer isn’t free”.

  13. Great post as always. Great to have you back!

  14. So very happy to have you back, Michael. You have a unique perspective, and so much to offer. You’ve been missed! Looking forward to hearing more of what Michael Rosen says. 😉

  15. Janet Coffey says, “Welcome back, Michael Rosen. You have been missed. Godspeed on your recovery.”

  16. Great to hear from you, Michael! I’m thrilled that you are feeling well enough to blog and inspire us with your life story! Thank you for all you do to help others in their journeys!!

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