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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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Cancer

Comments (46)

I was going to write something about a new book I’ve just published but I woke up this morning and that felt trivial so I’m going to save it for next week. Instead, I’m going to talk about my day yesterday.

My long time friend (dating back to the mid-1990′s) Andy Sack has testicular cancer. Before I get into things, he’s in the middle of chemo, has a 95%+ cure rate, is open and public about what he’s going through, and has an incredibly positive attitude.

I’ve tried to call or write Andy every day since his diagnosis. I’ve probably done it 80% of the time (I know I’ve missed a few days.) Every day at 5pm my iPhone gives me a reminder to “call Andy Sack.” Most of the time I get his voice mail and leave a message, other times we talk for a few minutes. While I was off the grid last week in Hawaii I sent him a postcard every day. Either way, I get a chance to tell him that I’m thinking of him and give him some additional energy from out in the universe, wherever I am. But this was the first time I’ve been able to get to Seattle to spend time with him.

I took the early flight from Denver to Seattle and we met up at the Kinect Accelerator where the program has just started. We found a room to just sit and talk for about 45 minutes. After a hug and a heart felt welcome, we started talking about how things were going. Our first 15 minutes were filled with lots of tears and emotion as I gave Andy a gift from a few of his friends including me and Amy and we connected physically for the first time since he was diagnosed.

I was curious about the experience he was having and he was very open about chemo, how it impacted him, and what the process was. We talked some about the dynamic of a loved one being sick or hurt since Amy’s had a broken arm for the past few weeks. While the broken arm isn’t in the same category as cancer, it has changed the way I’ve thought about caregiving as it’s the first time I’ve had to be – in Amy’s words “her man servant” – in our relationship. Amy called during this time and when the Imperial March (Amy’s personal ringtone) started playing on my iPhone Andy laughed a good belly laugh. I put Amy on speaker, the three of us had a nice talk, and then we wrapped up and had a TechStars related meeting.

We went to lunch with David Cohen, the CEO of TechStars. We talked about work, but we also talked about life. Andy was total present – he was having a good day physically and emotionally – and it was great to be around. After lunch David got in an Uber and headed to the airport to go back to Boulder; Andy and I walked around the corner to his office and BigDoor’s office (he’s on the board of BigDoor with me, their office is on the first floor, his is on the second.) I said hello to the BigDoor folks, hung out for a while and caught up on email while Andy had a meeting upstairs, and then he drove me to my hotel and we said goodbye for the day.

I had a few more meetings and then ended back up at the Kinect Accelerator for the Mentor Mixer. The program started on Monday and this was the first meeting of all the mentors. I gave a talk about how to be an effective mentor during the introduction to the program and afterward noticed Andy in the back of the room. This was a nice surprise as I didn’t expect to see him again on this trip. We hung out at the mixer a little and then took off to go have another meal together – this time alone.  We talked about a few experiences in the distant past and I vividly remembered a dinner in Brookline in the 1990′s with Andy, Alexa (his wife), and Amy. I couldn’t remember the restaurant, but I had the visualization of the entire experience in my head and shared it with him (he remembered it also). We talked more about a wide range of things – some business, some personal – and just enjoyed being together.

I got more than my fair share of his time yesterday. And it was awesome. As I was laying bed at 11pm drifting off to sleep I thought of him some more, some of the ups and downs we’d had together, and how much I treasured him as a friend.

We’ve been through lots of things together. One of the first things he said to me when he saw me was “your support of me through this period eliminated any fears I had lingering about our relationship in the context of any money that I’ve lost for you.” I’ve invested in a number of things that Andy has done dating back to his first company (Abuzz, which was a success and acquired by the NY Times for about a 4.5x of my investment.) But we’ve also had lots of things not work (Bodyshop.com – 0.5x, Judy’s Book – 0.25x.) However, I never, ever have worried about it – my willingness to keep trying and working with great people trumps the specific returns of any individual transaction. And more importantly, my personal friendship and loyalty is built on trust and a long term arc of honesty, not transactional results. While we’ve both screwed up plenty of things along the way and had our share of disagreements, we always resolve them and move forward. I’ve told Andy this several times in the past, but when you face mortality you have a chance to really understand (and express) this.

I wore my Fuck Cancer shirt all day. Several people gave me positive comments on it and one stood out. Near the end of the day, a woman who I didn’t know said “great shirt.” She looked at me with acknowledgement and a real spark of connection occurred. I realized, at that moment, that cancer is a disease that defines many people at a profoundly deep level, especially when they survive it.

On Saturday I’m running a 50 mile race in Sacramento. I’ve been thinking about this all week as I try to get my mind into it. It’s been hard to get real focus on it because I’ve had a busy week and I know that Friday will be my transition day. But as I sit here, the 50 mile run doesn’t seem that hard. Sure – it’ll be a physical and emotional challenge, but it’s not surgery, a 64 day chemo regimen, and the emotional challenge of “beating cancer.”

Life is short. And uncertain. Live it every moment. Andy – thanks for being you and letting me be part of your life.

  • http://twitter.com/JannScott Jann Scott

    Way to go there Brad.

  • http://twitter.com/ryanpoissant Ryan Poissant

    Touching post Brad – thanks for sharing. 

  • http://reecepacheco.com/ reecepacheco

    wow… sending Andy good energy from NYC

    fuck cancer… 

    i imagine you’ll be thinking that over and over again on those 50 miles, and you’ll think of Andy, and you’ll be grateful of his friendship and that’s what will get you to the finish

  • http://www.dailygrommet.com Jules Pieri

    Brad, beautiful post.  You had me at the title and I bet that will be true for many.  I’ve “been there/ done that” with a very lightweight cancer of my own, but am currently helping one of my investors, Dan Weinreb (he wrote the book on LISP–you probably know him) through a tough one.  (I aspire to that daily call with Dan…and fall very short.  Good for you!)  Same thing, helping with my mom in Detroit (stage 4 colon) and my sister-in-law just got a cancer diagnosis.  I am surrounded and I bet that is not such an exotic state, alas.  The other day someone asked me what I do when I get in a funk, and I realized the best thing is to do what you are doing:  help a dear friend or relative who has a REAL reason for a funk.  Snaps me out of any stupid existential crisis quite well.

  • http://www.alearningaday.com Rohan

    Word.

  • John Gunn

    Beautiful and moving, and an apt tribute to the true nature
    of the indescribable bond that we label as friendship. As unwitting shepherds
    of loved ones battling cancer, we are afforded a unique opportunity to provide
    what is often needed most – simple human communion; the giving of our imperfect
    selves to another. The feeling that they are not alone and that the entire universe
    has not aligned against them provides solace during the moments of terror and desperation
    that strike in wee hours of the night. We give as much as we can of ourselves
    and wonder if we couldn’t have done more. We do it for love, perhaps we do it
    for our own atonement, and we do it for the  most fundamental reason of all –
    because they would do it for us. You have joined a courageous fight and I hope
    your post serves as a call to arms for all of your readers to reach out and help
    the millions of others Andys that are out there, many of whom have no
    resources, nobody to care for them, and nothing but fear and pain. Good luck in
    the American River Run. Next year the Western States, eh?

  • http://twitter.com/slynch00 Steve Lynch

    I learned more about you as a person in that post than the many other insightful things I have read from you. I appreciate you choosing this to write about.

  • http://www.ToolSpinner.com/ Daniel Cole

    Amazing how being close to something like cancer can so quickly put everything else in perspective.  Thanks for sharing.

  • http://joeyevoli.com/ Joe Yevoli

    I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this post.  It shows what kind of person you are.  It’s inspiring.

    My dad passed away from cancer in 2006.  I left graduate school in the fall of 2005 to go home and take care of him.  It’s amazing how much that small time frame in my life (9 months) has defined, and will continue to define the rest of my life.  I’m totally health conscious now, and plan to live a long and healthy life.  I feel like this experience of being with my dad during his last few months have made me focus and realize what’s truly important in life.  It’s weird, in such a bad situation, a little good came out of it.

    Anyway, great post, Brad.  You’re a great friend, and Andy is lucky to have someone like you in his life.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dealarchitect Vinnie Mirchandani

    Brad, you are big man to post about this versus your own book which I am sure you are proud of. Post Cards – what a beautiful concept! My postman probably worried about cuts at USPS is encouraging the neighborhood to send cards to friends and family.Makes their day he says. Reading your post really hit home.   

  • Clarissa King

    Life is all about perspective, isn’t it? Thanks for the touchstone Brad…and have a great run.

  • Matt Branaugh

    Brad–What a testimony of friendship and the power of encouragement and support. Thanks for sharing it.

  • http://adingintheuniverse.com/ Emily Merkle

    posts like this one keep people like me going. thank you. I am amidst a series of ECT treatments. scary and scary. thanks for the kick in the ass to keep living.

  • Doug young

    Powerful stuff. Thanks for sharing.

  • Bill Adkins

    hearing those words from your doctor alters your view forever. Thanks for sharing the story.

  • http://byJess.net/ Jess Bachman

    Cancer is a mofo for sure.  Andy is lucky to have a support system that includes people like you.  Best wishes to you both.  Another public person who is currently going through chemo is Xeni Jardin (@xeni:disqus).  My wife has survived cancer twice now and Xeni provides a very thorough, honest, and real take on things.

    Also… Burning Entrepreneur?  C’mon dude… wheres the Startup Marriage!?

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Startup Marriage – June June June. That’s what I keep telling myself whenever I bring it up and work on it. June!

  • Jil Cohen

    Great post. You are such a wonderful person and a true friend. Andy, and all of us, are lucky to have you in our lives. I’m reading this in a coffee shop, crying cuz its so honest and sweet.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=761078317 Tony Ferrendelli

    Great post Brad and sorry to hear about Andy.  It sucks no matter who is going through the battle.  Being in the support role is tough and rewarding and I know that he appreciates it.  Tell Andy good luck.

  • http://clareyt.tumblr.com/ Clare Bear

    Thanks for writing this, Brad. I’ve been thinking about Andy a lot. 

  • http://about.me/mikerowan Mike Rowan

    Brad, this is a great write up vs the book (but I look forward to that too) and strikes a cord with any of us that have had our lives touched by cancer.  Thanks for sharing this.

  • http://twitter.com/NicholasBLee Nicholas Branden Lee

    Great post. Good luck in the race

  • http://twitter.com/CamiloALopez Camilo Lopez

    True friends are hard to find! But once you find them they are there in good and bad times! Thanks for sharing. 

  • T.A. McCann

    Inspiring as always.  You are such a rare blend of smart, soul and passion.  I am privileged to know both you (and Andy).   Fuck cancer and when it is really hurting on mile 42, embrace the pain for everyone who cannot run.

  • Josh Emert

    Thanks for choosing to write about Andy and your experience. It helps not only voicing your feelings but also being able to relate via reading others’ experiences. A few family members of mine have been through the hell that is cancer (luckily both said “fuck cancer” and beat it). It’s tough and I feel cheap saying that as someone that hasn’t gone through the pain of chemo. What I learned is that being a true friend / significant other isn’t about sharing the pain with your loved one – it’s about being present. Andy is a force, a incredibly giving mentor to startups and entrepreneurs in Seattle, and an inspiration to all us that know him. GFA Andy!

  • Michael McAlpin

    As a prostate cancer survivor (6+years post surgery, ~6 years post radiation, ~5 years post hormone therapy [Yes, the DRs were agressive & conservative.]) your take on Andy resonates. A lot.

    My family knows me as the “before cancer” and “after cancer” Dad/Husband/Brother/Friend.

    It changes your outlook on EVERYTHING. And I found my friends/family to be the best medicine.

    Thanks you so very much for sharing – with us – and with Andy.

    Now, as a marathoner & occasional “ultra” runner – HAVE A GREAT RACE.

    (My pet theory is that a marathon or an ultra is like living one full life span compressed into a few hours. Insightful & illuminating. I hope that your 50 miler is as illuminating.)

    Run well.

  • http://engag.io/ William Mougayar

    Very touching indeed. You speak your heart.

  • Elaine

    I do not normally follow your blog, (even though I’m in the Start-up community in Boulder– for shame!) and will from now on. But I just have to let you know how quite amazing the universe is and how grateful I am that your post found me today. See, one of my closest friend’s father died today from pancreatic cancer. I received word just a few hours ago. My friend and I just spoke and had a very touching and extremely real conversation about the precious precious moments of life. I’ve known my friend since high school and it is amazing how time, space, memories, loss, love, and everything mixes together to create the very real present we call life. So I applaud you honoring Andy and your friendship today. Thank you for sharing.

    p.s. I am most definitely getting that shirt.

  • http://twitter.com/ktinboulder Kelly Taylor

    step step step breathe step step….helluva post Brad, thanks for sharing.  

  • Lance Michalson

    Have been reading your posts for 2 years now. Another great post. You are indeed a rare blend of high EQ, IQ and soul. I respect your ability to truly put ‘other’ on centre court. Chag Sameach.

  • http://twitter.com/MarkH603 Mark Harrison

    Hey Brad – truly a powerful post. Please keep sharing your thoughts with the world, I have yet to find them without value. -Mark 

  • Carin Reich

    Great post Brad. You always amaze me with the range of topics you write about and how heartfelt they are. I do not know Andy but good healing vibes out to him and fuck cancer!

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  • http://www.thestudyofsocial.com Matt Hixson

    Thanks for posting this.  A reality check for any of us who worry about the trivial things in our lives each day.  Andy- I hope you continue on your path to recovery.  Brad – best of luck on your race this weekend.

  • http://www.bijansabet.com bijan

    a moving post. thanks for sharing this. 

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  • Heidi Allstop

    This is a really inspiring post, Brad. I can’t wait for the day when we have Cancer Spill… or Hospital Spill…or whatever it may be. Even with high chances of success, it’s a scary journey. Andy is lucky to have you beside him.

  • http://www.facebook.com/heidiallstop Heidi Allstop

    This is a really inspiring post, Brad. I can’t wait for the day when we have Cancer Spill… or Hospital Spill…or whatever it may be. Even with high chances of success, it’s a scary journey. Andy is lucky to have you beside him.

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  • http://blog.blainelight.com/ Blaine Light

    Great Article Brad. Thanks for keeping me inspired.

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  • http://twitter.com/drtonyratliff Dr. Tony Ratliff

    My buddy just got diagnosed with testicular cancer last month and he isn’t even 40 yet! Cancer Sucks! Great Post.

  • newsletter tips

    cancer is a serious kind of illness because nothing can cure  this. The only thing that can heal this is a miracle. We should believe in our creator because he is the only one can takes ones lives. 

  • http://www.about.me/tgowland Tara Gowland

    Awesome post Brad – you really hit it.

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