On June 1st of 2005, Andrew McMahon heard the words no one ever expects to hear at any point in their life, but especially not when the world is at their feet and they’re chasing their dreams while on the brink of adulthood. You have cancer.
On August 23rd of that same year, Andrew received a stem cell transplant from his sister that helped him to recover fully from his cancer – acute lymphocytic leukemia – and ultimately saved his life. Andrew didn’t just continue his life after his cancer diagnosis, he decided to change the lives of other young adults on paths similar to his own struggle, and give them hope for future after those three life-altering words.
The trajectory of a life is forever altered by those three loaded words. Unlike many friends I’ve met along the way, I survived to tell my story and use this new life to advocate for those who are hearing those difficult words for the first time.
Andrew created the Dear Jack Foundation in the year after his own diagnosis and now, ten years later, young adults all over the world have found promise, support, and the strength to continue living through Jack’s foundation as well as through his own inspirational and passionate way of existing.
The Dear Jack Foundation aims to help young adults who are navigating their own lives after cancer touches them and finding a way to not just live but to thrive in life after surviving cancer. The journey and the battle themselves are hard enough, but living with the effects of the disease and the treatment, as well as finding a light again after so much darkness is seemingly impossible – Andrew knows this struggle all too well.
Andrew is not only painstakingly honest about his vices, struggles, and recurring system of self-destruction and rebuilding, only to self-destruct again after his battle with cancer – he talks about how seeking help truly ended up saving him. Upon the birth of his daughter, Andrew says he finally understood why it all happened and what it all meant, and he was able to look his battle in the face and know it ultimately led him to the best things in life.
If sharing his story of overcoming cancer and the life changes that come along with it wasn’t enough – he created an entire community through Dear Jack where young adults fighting cancer can share their own stories, advice, and days both good and bad with one another. Finding others who understand what life is like when a disease affects your every move helps to provide a sense of comfort for those just coming upon the greatest struggle of their lives.
To celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the Dear Jack Foundation, Andrew has created a charity drive in hopes of raising $100,000 for adolescent and young adult cancer patients and survivors. Since cancer doesn’t just begin with a diagnosis and end with a quick treatment, the money donated and awareness raised will help to equip those struggling with cancer with what it takes to not only fight the disease but find a way to live again after surviving the unthinkable.
In addition to donating to the 100k challenge, you can make one time – or monthly – donations to the foundation, host your own fundraiser, share the Dear Jack Foundation on social media, and sign up as a volunteer for future events – the foundation contacts you when something comes up!
For the rest of 2016, the Dear Jack Foundation is hosting the DJF Golf Classic on August 1st, an evening at Colorado Startup Brews on September 9th, and a Dear Jack Benefit Concert on November 11th!
We got to see Andrew perform at Forecastle in Louisville, Kentucky on July 16th and during the performance of “Holiday From Real” he brought a guest drummer to the stage – a young man struggling with cancer, and he played the song on stage in front of thousands alongside Andrew and his band. The moment brought tears to the eyes of those in the crowd as they cheered louder than before for his bravery and strength. While that moment was incredible for the young man, it was also incredible for the audience and for Andrew himself as it stood as a testament to the way he lives his life to help others – it’s not just something he talks about.
If you want to get involved with the Dear Jack Foundation, please visit it’s Website and Twitter account so you can find out what you can do to help young people facing the battle of a lifetime, and in the same breath – find the beauty that exists even in adversity.