John: I am here today with Jesse Giordano who has been nominated as a Model Citizen for the February issue of Model Citizens Magazine. Jesse is a philanthropist and also a Financial Advisor and Principal with Opal Wealth Advisors in Jericho, New York. Jesse, I’ve just learned that you’re a cancer survivor and I’m wondering if you can share your story with us.
Jesse: Sure, I was seven years old, just before my eighth birthday, and I was playing Little League baseball. I was at the plate and my mom was sitting in the stands watching me and from her seat, I guess it is a parent’s instinct, noticed something on my neck and it worried her. When I came off the field, she looked at my neck and asked what the lump was. She seemed a little panicked. I remember that she asked me if it hurt and if I hurt myself. My dad came to look as well and the next thing I knew I was in my pediatrician’s office.
John: I am sure it was surreal.
Jesse: They ran several tests and ultimately confirmed that I had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I had to do chemotherapy for about eight months. The chemotherapy was definitely the hardest part.
John: I watched my father’s treatments, and the chemotherapy he went through was the worst thing I ever witnessed in my life. Cancer just devastated him.
Jesse: My first chemotherapy treatment was on my mom’s 33rd birthday. My parents are the same age, so they were 33 at the time. It was a difficult eight months. I can still remember the burning, vomiting, and nausea. It went on for several months and fortunately once the treatment was over, I never had an issue ever again. It certainly left a mark on my childhood. I think if there is any remarkable or positive outcome from my illness, and this is difficult to imagine and I hesitate to say this because it may sound insensitive to those who are going through chemotherapy today, but I am grateful that I went through it because it gave me an appreciation of my own vulnerabilities. Not in the sense of having something to be afraid of, but I was most moved by and can remember clearly, even though I was only seven or eight, the care from nurses and doctors, my family, and the students in my school.
John: Is that what motivated you to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Man of the Year competition?