I woke at 5:30 AM. Did a little email. I woke the kids. Made them a smoothie. I spoke to a buddy in Chicago about the normal stuff – kids, Buddy Media, deals and the markets.
I headed to the Meatpacking District to meet a colleague in the Starbucks in the Google building. And on my way out, I looked at my phone -- 2 missed calls and an email that punched me in the gut, “It is with a heavy heart and the deepest sadness that I write to let you know that Jen passed away this morning.”
I called Kass immediately. My anchor in every way sat in her office sobbing. Uncontrollably.
I zombie-walked toward my office. I just wanted to see Kass. To say hi to George in the front lobby. To sit at my desk. To feel normal.
12 rounds of chemotherapy. Six surgeries. More stomachaches and pain than any of us could even imagine.
Sick was Jen Linn’s normal. Death just a mindset, and not a scientific certitude. An inconvenient truth that could be delayed, conquered and even bent. And most of all, never feared.
“I will be a living role model to others,” she wrote on her site YouFearless.com, “that without fear, anything is possible.”
Anything, we all thought, including creating a cure to kick her own cancer. The comeback story for the ages.
It’s not a crazy idea, after all, for those of us born in the '70s. I remember watching the news that John Hinckley, Jr.’s bullet stopped an inch from President Reagan’s heart!
Magic Johnson announced he was HIV positive. A speedy death sentence for sure. That didn’t stop him from playing in an All-Star Game and winning a gold medal with the Dream Team. Twenty years later, he’s still alive, looking better than ever.
Jen never hid that she had cancer. But she roared, with all her passion, that cancer didn’t have her. And to make sure we all heard her now and forever, she launched Cycle for Survival, an organization that will continue to be a major contributor to wiping out cancer.
Millions of patients suffer from “rare” cancers like the one Jen had. They get little attention and even fewer research dollars. The term “rare,” however, is a misnomer as these cancers account for about 50% of all diagnoses and include leukemia, melanoma, pancreatic, brain, and all pediatric cancers.
Cycle for Survival is growing like a tech startup doubling the money raised to attack rare cancers each year. And cyclers have grown from a few hundred teams to more than 4,500 cyclers worldwide. In total, Jen’s baby has raised $9 million for direct cancer research and I expect next year’s event to double that number once again.
Cycle for Survival has helped shrink the time it takes to get trial cancer treatments from research lab to patients down to 18 months from 5 years. Keeping the best researchers in the lab and out of the fundraising process is critical to getting to “no” faster so we can eventually get to “yes, we have a cure.”
Jen created Cycle for Survival, but she was so much more. She spent her last few months writing for WebMD, helping other cancer patients and caretakers live better lives. She was a sought-after motivational speaker. As recently as May she keynoted the American Airlines’ Women in Aviation Conference in Dallas.
Jen is and will forever be one of Kass and my true inspirations. She taught us how to live purposefully in the most darkest of times. How to innovate when the stakes were the highest. How to treat others with kindness when kindness had been all but beaten out of you. How to dream big. Live bigger. And that without fear, anything is possible.
Help me carry Jen’s mission forward. Donate to Cycle for Survival today in Jen’s honor. Get involved. Get your company involved. I think we all can agree that the world would be a better place if cancer wasn’t taking many of our most promising and inspirational people away from us way too early.
Here's a video of Jen's visit to Buddy Media.