10 Year Anniversary and How I Ended Up In Vogue

With Dr. Feldman raising funds for fertility preservation.

Friends and family! I can’t believe it’s been almost 10 years since I was diagnosed. What grace and blessing to have lived a full life in that decade and to welcome Juniper and Iris to our family and watch them grow. It is all a tremendous gift.

On November 10th last year, the eve of Juniper’s 8th birthday, I told my story around fertility preservation and cancer at a fundraiser for the MSK fertility program at the Plaza Hotel in NYC. It was one of those fancy shindigs that gets written up in Vogue magazine which is how I was able to cross appearing in said publication off of my bucket list www.vogue.com/slideshow/msk-fall-party-valentino-2022 (next stop Met Gala?).

More importantly was how grateful I was to stand in front of the crowd with my family and friends there as well as my oncologist, Dr. Feldman, to share the journey. And to do it in service of current and future patients who hold the dream of creating a family of their own -a dream that I know can be a rope to help pull yourself through the dark moments. I have posted the speech I gave that night below.

I ask you again this year to support the germ cell tumor research Dr. Feldman is doing at MSK by contributing to the Nutcrackers Cycle for Survival team: http://mskcc.convio.net/goto/erickson — every dollar goes directly to research and any amount is welcome and appreciated. Thank you to so many of you who have given over the years. Your support is making an impact as Dr. Feldman finds new means of earlier detection and less destructive treatments.

Gracias, gracias, gracias.

Good evening everyone. It is an honor and privilege to be here, with my parents, dear friends, fellow cancer survivors, and the incredibly talented and passionate Dr. Feldman. It’s not every day you get to share a podium with someone who helped save your life.

I’d like to tell you a tale of two pregnancies. A “right” pregnancy and a “wrong” pregnancy.   The wrong pregnancy —was mine.

It’s a golden evening in August, 2013, I am in my orchard staking an apple tree and the phone in the house won’t stop ringing. I go inside and see that the caller ID says New Milford hospital so I pick up. The nurse on the line says they have the results of my recent CAT scan and could I come in first thing in the morning? I tell her I need a little more information and as the words “metastases” and “lungs” and “spread” hit my ears, I feel the earth shift a few degrees. I sit down in shock, hang up the phone, and start to cry.

Within a week, I am in the ICU at Sloan Kettering coughing up blood and having my first course of chemo for advanced metastatic testicular cancer. There are tumors throughout my abdomen, including a softball sized mass integrated with my psoas muscle and lymph nodes, as well as tumors in my lungs and a golf-ball sized growth on my heart. 

Following 3 months of intensive chemo I have a procedure known as an RPLND during which my abdomen is opened from sternum to pelvis, my intestines pushed to the side.  The tumors, all the lymph nodes at the back of my abdomen, and my left testicle are removed.  I then have open lung surgery on my left lung to remove 24 tumors following which my lung collapses for six weeks. With one lung working, I develop a small bowel obstruction from the first surgery and the surgeons have to go back into my original scar to un-kink my intestine. 

Needless to say, I am at a low point. I am probably 50 pounds lighter than I am now, fatigued from the chemo and in a lot of pain and worry not knowing if I would survive. After my lung reinflates I rebuild my strength for a couple of months before my final open lung surgery on my right side to remove 17 small sections. 

When the pathology comes back negative, almost a year exactly from diagnosis, a year of incredible care at Sloan Kettering, I am declared NED (no evidence of disease). My wife and I laugh and dance and shed tears of gratitude and relief. 

You may be wondering what all of this has to do with pregnancy. My tumor type, choriocarcinoma, is basically placenta. Germ cell tumors tend to present as these bizzaro versions of tissues associated with pregnancy. My primary tumor marker was HCG which is the hormone that is measured by a pregnancy pee stick test… Which I did at one point for a lark and showed Dr. Feldman that according to the test I bought at CVS I was, in fact, pregnant.   

But my traditional Chinese medicine doctor, Sat Hong, who helped me with many of the side effects of my treatment, would call it a wrong pregnancy – an unbalanced pregnancy.  My wife would joke that it’s just another example of me trying to do everything myself. 


Now let me tell you the tale of another pregnancy. A right pregnancy. 

We’ll go back to the beginning. It’s the harrowing early days of diagnosis and my wife and I are at the clinic at the Kimmel center on 68th street. We have a difficult consultation regarding my treatment plan and are then introduced to Joanne Kelvin, who established the Cancer and Fertility Program at MSK, and are told that she is there to talk about having children. 

Joanne is warm and understanding as she informs us that the chemo could render me infertile. She asks if we would like to try and bank some sperm — we say yes. 

Joanne smiles, and says because we don’t have much time before treatment begins, she has all of the forms at the ready, plus a collection jar and a messenger on speed dial to bring the specimen to Manhattan Cryobank. I feel deeply cared for. It is clear to me that Joanne and MSK are going beyond the strict mandate of care and treating me as a whole person, while supporting my wife and me and our dreams. 

Somehow, in a clinical consult room of an unfamiliar cancer hospital, with the lights off and the shades drawn, my wife and I are able to produce the first of two vials we would save. It is difficult and awkward—but it is also a place to put our focus and intention that is so clearly and obviously about life, and living beyond cancer. These vials hold the promise of our children in the face of death.

It is early winter when we decide to try IVF. I’m in the throes of my treatment. But making this effort feels like saying yes to life, and gives us an actionable place to put our focus and to hope for something beyond my survival.  The first round fails, which is devastating.   

My wife, who is not only taking care of me and enduring the fertility treatments, but also working full time as a teacher, picks herself up — picks both of us up — and leads the charge back into the IVF fray. 

At one point, I am lying in the hospital bed with my collapsed lung, recovering from the emergency abdominal surgery. With tubes in just about every place they can go, I reach out of bed and inject my wife’s backside with hormones. We laugh when the nurses come in bewildered and wonder just what the heck was going on. 

In the early spring, a single viable embryo emerges. We cry and hold hands, watching the black-and-white monitor as our doctor places that tiny hope in her uterine wall. As the embryo grows, my cancer shrinks.  My HCG falls and my wife’s rises. I actually titled my blogpost during that time: “Now You grow the placenta!” 

Just a few months after my final surgery, on the evening of 11/11 at 18:18, our daughter, Juniper, was born. Something out of balance is restored, and the rest of our life begins. She turns 8 years old tomorrow. 


I have come to understand that oncologists are  statisticians on a certain level. They are constantly calculating outcome probabilities and treatment courses weighed against side effects. 

And I know part of their calculus is what we might call “net human life.” It is part of the reason they will pursue much more aggressive treatments for a 24-year old than an 87-year old. The question is not just “can we save a life here” but “how many years of a life can we save?” 

If we look at fertility support and preservation for cancer patients through this lens and extend the calculus to the unborn children of the patients in our community, there may be no better return on investment than supporting fertility. 

Add to those years the immeasurable comfort and hope it can bring to a family experiencing cancer, and the case is even more compelling. 

There is a lot of uncertainty in the markets and the world at large right now but I can tell you one thing for certain – an investment in human life will always be worth it. So consider the amount of life you can bring into the world and the deep healing it can offer as you think about how big a gift to give tonight. 

Thank you. 


  1. Thanks for all the reminders. You out-fashioned them all.

  2. brandspankin says:

    Some serious talent there (beyond your fine ass self of course ;) happy 10th my friend. I’m working on a cancer treatment (Imbruvica, for CLL), learning a whole lot about this crazy disease. I think about your story often. Swing by if you’re in the area – we’ll have Big Dog over and maybe play some tunes.

  3. Jay,

    Thank you for a wonderful testimony to human danger and victory. You are the great Victor, my friend, and Juniper and Iris are the Proof.

    We fly back very late tomorrow and we’ll see you and the girls later this week!


    Robin & Helen

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