Welcome to Elephants and Tea: Letter from a Brother

by Nick GiallourakisNovember 14, 2018View more posts from Nick Giallourakis

I would like to personally welcome you to Elephants and Tea!  If you are reading this message you or someone you love is fighting with cancer either as a patient or a survivor.  

Let me start by saying, we at Elephants and Tea love you and are sending a virtual hug your way!

On that note…feel free to pause and now yell and scream whatever your favorite swear word is out loud, go ahead I’ll wait (Mine is the good ole F-Bomb).

Feel better?  

OK let’s talk Elephants and Tea, who we are, what we are doing and why we are doing it?

Who we are

This is me, Nick G!

Camilla (Wife), Aubrey (our Frenchie) and I

My name is Nick Giallourakis.  I am not a cancer patient or survivor, but my little brother Steve is a two-time cancer survivor of two different cancers at ages 15 and 18. I’ll dive into Steve and his story shortly but needless to say he is the inspiration myself and co-founder Angie (or Mom to Steve, Phil and I) have to start this new media company for adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer patients and survivors.

Over the past 10+ years Angie and I have been involved as cancer advocates for AYA cancer but also childhood cancers.  Angie has been to Washington D.C. several times to lobby for addition funding for research to cure all of the cancers that affect our youngsters and young adults.  My professional experience has been working within the media magazine world working for brands to bring together new trends and communities to one central location to gather information.

During our travels and talking with people we have realized there isn’t a central location dedicated for the AYA cancer population to bring together not just patients and survivors but the support organizations and groups across the country that do such an amazing job for the AYA cancer population.

What we are doing

Elephants and Tea’s goal is to do just that – to be a central location for people to share their stories to inspire each other and find where they can go for help with their day to day struggles battling AYA cancer, either as a patient or survivor.

We want to work together for the good of the patient, survivor and their families as we are all one Herd.  We didn’t plan to be part of this “cancer family”, but here we are, and we will do everything we can to love and help each other.

Elephants and Tea’s main outlet to deliver content will be our website.  We will also be having a quarterly print magazine with featured stories, social media, podcast, a weekly newsletter to send to you new stories and information across the AYA cancer world, so make sure to sign up!

Did we mention it is all free?

13 years ago during Steve’s first cancer – Steve is in the middle – photo from Flashes of Hope

Why we are doing it?

Flat out we would have never been involved in the cancer world if my brother Steve had not been diagnosed with cancer.  As I mentioned above, this is not a “cancer family” we ever asked for but here we are damn it and we will do everything we can for each other!  Spoiler alert I met my wife because of Steve and his nurses while he was in the hospital on a 6 week stay but we will save that story for another day.

This is going to be the abbreviated version of Steve’s story as there are several stories he will be sharing along the way.  But to give you a taste of it and to understand why we are doing what we do here we go…

It has been 13 years since Steve was first diagnosed with his first cancer, Osteosarcoma, and 10 years since his 2nd cancer diagnoses of Secondary Acute Myeloid Leukemia which we found out was a result of his chemotherapy from his first cancer (WTF).

Thankfully, Steve received a bone marrow transplant from a random person as no one within our family was a match and has been cancer free for almost 9 years now. Hell yes!  Home free yet again.

But as those of you that are a survivor know Steve’s battle had only just begun.

Don’t get me wrong I’m not trying to downplay the fact that Steve has beaten out 2 cancers, several spinal surgeries, a bone marrow transplant, chemotherapy and radiation.  It is a miracle that he has and truly an inspiration to all.

But the side effects from all the above was something I don’t truly think people really understand; plus the fact that he missed on his high school and college years.

Frankly, I was one of those people.

My brother Phil and I were constantly trying to help Steve get his life together.  Maybe it is us being protective older brothers trying to make sure our little brother gets a job and makes it in life.  We never really stopped to understand or take a deeper dive that Steve and others like him legitimately struggle with things that those of us who never had to fight cancer take for granted.  

Angie encouraged me to attend Stupid Cancer’s Cancercon in 2018 (for those that haven’t gone I highly recommend doing so as a survivor/patient as a young adult).  

I did attend, and I have never felt more ashamed about how I had been treating Steve.  I’d constantly yell at him for forgetting things or not paying attention or even freaking out when he would wake up in the morning and something wouldn’t feel right and his anxiety level would sky rocket.

I kid you not, almost every single survivor I met and spoke with at Cancercon reminded me of my brother. Anxiety levels off the charts and forgetting things.  I learned that the term ‘chemo brain’ is in fact a real side effect on those that went through chemotherapy.

So not only is this an introduction letter for Elephants and Tea but an older brother apologizing how wrong he was to his little brother over the past few years.  Steve I am sorry and I love you man.

Conclusion

We are here to inspire and bring together the AYA community to not just beat cancer but life after it.  We do not want cancer to define you, we want you to define you.

Be heard. Join the Herd.