Presenter: Hannah Stanley
Guest: Jonny Imerman
Guest Bio: He is the founder of Imerman Angels.
Health Professional Radio
Hannah Stanley: Hi, this is Hannah Stanley with Health Professional Radio. This is part two of our two-part interview with Johnny Imerman, founder of Imerman Angels, global one-on-one cancer support network. For the medical professionals, researchers etc. who are listening to us today on Health Professional Radio, what can they tell their patients?
Johnny Imerman: Yes, everything is free, 100% free, we’ll always be. We are just a plug-in to the hospital. Doctors and nurses and social workers, any medical professionals, please refer patients to us. We just want to help these people and motivate them; and also survivors or caregivers, who’ve been through it. We just want to know them so they can become an angel to give back.
Please, the best way to send these people to us [inaudible 00:45] is right to our website, and they can sign up at imermanangels.org, and they can also call up 866-IMERMAN, that is toll-free, from anywhere in the world. We’re happy to do the whole thing over the phone.
But if they go online and they go to imermanangels.org, our website, there’s a lot of information there where they can get an understanding of what we’re going to do, how we can help them. Then they can sign up online, that’s the easiest way, and then we Skype them once that registration comes in. It’s a really easy way for us to get … capture all their information online, Skype them, get to know them, triage, figure out what they need, and then find the best match.
Hannah: Now, the doctors who could be listening of course are not exempt from having been patients – doctors, nurses, medical professionals, dentists, anyone. They’re very likely to have had cancer as well in the same numbers of the regular population. You would be interested in having them as part of the network as well?
Johnny: Absolutely, absolutely. Doctors and nurses are great referral persons. They send us people all the time, who we help. But in addition, if they go through cancer or you are a survivor and a doctor, you’re an amazing mentor too. You can help as well. We have a lot of doctors and a lot of therapists who’ve been through cancer in our network who mentor other people. We’d love to have you, no question about it.
Anyone, any age, anywhere in the world with any type of cancer from any angle, you can sign up as a mentor if you’ve been through it [indecipherable 02:27] we’d love to have you. The more the merrier.
Hannah: Now, aside from your network growing by leaps and bounds in just the few short years … this has been, what, five or six years since you founded Imerman Angels. What has changed in the cancer community?
Johnny: That’s a great question. What’s changed in the cancer community – for the first time, in the last couple of years, there are a few sites where you can go online. We love it and we supportively work with them, but there are few sites where you can do online matching or find people networking who share the experience completely online.
I think that’s really a new thing. It’s all done online. You don’t call anyone, you just search and find everybody online. We believe that there’s room for both.
There’s certain people out there, they’re going to want more of the Imerman Angels handholding, you call us or Skype us, we talk to you. We figure out your story. We find you a survivor, we can do the match for you and connect to you. But I think there’s also a room for the newer generation – from the new generation, you want to do everything online and that’s great too.
Of course, if you don’t have the screen in there, it’s the really only difference, that we screen these people, we talk to them. We know who they are, we feel comfortable that they’re going to do a good job as a mentor. When you do the helping online, you don’t have that, but some people don’t mind that. Some people know that they’re okay regardless and they’re protecting themselves anyway, and that’s okay too.
But I think it’s great. I think there’s room for both and I think that there’s so much need out there for those fighting cancer to find others like them. There’s so many millions across the world and we’re only helping thousands, that it’s good that there are both. People have two options. Some people may use both options – do it online, and then in addition, use Imerman Angels.
Hannah: When are you set up to receive patients? It they are … at what point are they calling you? At what point is it best for them to reach out? When they’ve already begun treatment? When is the ideal?
Johnny: It’s a great question. The best time to reach out is really right away. We’ve had people call us in the parking lot from their cell phone. I remember one guy calling me years ago and he said, “I got diagnosed ten minutes ago. I haven’t called my wife yet. I just walked out of the hospital. My doctor said I have cancer. He gave your brochure, and I’m lost and I’m scared, and I need to know someone that survived this thing. Please introduce me to a survivor who has been through it’.” They called in ten minutes, and that’s great.
Some people will call a month or two into it, just because things get so hectic when they get diagnosed. You really … it’s up to you. It’s up to the person going through it. But our goal is to get you sooner than later, because I really believe that right when you get diagnosed, you think your world changes forever, as it did mine, and the sooner you call, and talk, and get connected with someone who survived, that positive outcome, I really think that can take you down a very positive path, rather than potentially going on a more negative path or one of despair or isolation.
So I believe the earlier the better. Right away, when you get diagnosed, we’d love you to call Imerman Angels. We’ll find you someone who’s been there and who can help out.
Hannah: What’s the rate of those who had been mentored who are now mentors?
Johnny: It’s almost 100%, it’s very high. It’s way above 90%. Those mentees that have been helped, I can’t tell you how many of those turn around immediately and say, “Wow, this organisation really helped me and my mentor really helped me. Now it’s my turn to give back and help the next guy out or the next girl out.” That’s a beautiful thing.
It’s a cycle. First, Imerman Angels gives you a mentor who’s been through their cancer to help you. Once you survive, once you get your feet on the ground – sometimes it may take months or a year – you are ready then to give back and help the next guy out, because you learned so much along the way.
Hannah: It’s another part of that after-cancer goal too – “Not only do I want to get back into the gym, I want to run a marathon, I want to do whatever – I want to also be on the other side.” It gives you something else that you can strive to do.
Johnny: Yeah, there’s no question about it. It’s a motivator, right? Because you know once you’re done, you’re going to get back in the gym, you’re going to be able to work again. You’re going to be able to spend more time with your kids, whatever it is that motivates you. To me, actually one of the biggest motivators was mentoring. Because I was dreaming this idea up during cancer, and I wanted to beat it so bad, because I knew if I beat it, I was really fired up to give back.
It was a huge motivator, and it gave me so much of a purpose, to want to beat it and live, because I knew when cancer was over, that’s how I was going to help other people. Go back into the centre, go door to door, find other people with the same thing, young especially – ’cause I was young, in my 20s – and walk in and identify with them and say, “Hey, I’ve been through this. Do you want to talk?”
That’s what I did and that’s what we found, that all they want to do is talk to you, because they look to you and say, “Wow, you really get me. You’re young, in your 20s, I’m young, in my 20s. I’ve got cancer and you’ve been through this.” Based on shared experience and connection, the connection is so strong.
Hannah: We don’t need to tell any of the medical professionals listening how powerful hope can be, psychologically, knowing that there is a positive outcome, no matter what that diagnosis is. You guys have had Stage 4 in that are now … survived and mentoring, so it does give the ability that it is beatable.
Johnny: Absolutely. There really are so many amazing stories like that, where people who have overcome Stage 4 cancer, and are clear. They’ve gotten it out of the lung or whatever organ that really qualifies them as Stage 4. Then there’s other people who are Stage 4 thrivers.
We call them thrivers, where they have Stage 4 cancer and maybe the average person lives a couple of years with that cancer, but they are ten years out and they’re still living strong and going to work and living with the cancer. That’s still a powerful story to be able to help the next person who’s just starting the Stage 4 run. That “Wow, somebody else is out there thriving with it, ten years later.” But that’s possible and you’re given hope.
Hannah: For medical professionals who wish to get information on Imerman Angels, to be able to pass on that information to others, to patients, to those in their network, how can they get more information and some brochures and everything else?
Johnny: Definitely. The number one best way to find us and to get involved is imermanangel.org. You can also call us at 866-IMERMAN. But you can also order brochures at imermanangel.org. It’s super easy, anywhere in the world, Australia or anywhere, can click on ‘Support Us’ and click on ‘Request Brochures’. It’s right there, two clicks off the home page, and we will ship you brochures anywhere in the world for your cancer centre.
We just want to stack them wherever we can to get them in front of those fighting cancer today, so they can reach out and we can help them.
Hannah: Johnny Imerman, founder of Imerman Angels. You, of course, as you mentioned, are at imermanangels.org, the most direct way to get information on all things Imerman Angels. Johnny, thank you so much for joining me. Hannah Stanley, today on Health Professional Radio.
This concludes part two of our two-part interview with Johnny Imerman, founder of Imerman Angels. This is Hannah Stanley on Health Professional Radio.