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My long time CLL buddy and a founding member of the CLL Society Patient Advisory Board, Joe Greenblatt sailed away on January 23, 2021 after a long struggle with COVID-19. Joe had beaten a coma-inducing West Nile Virus encephalitis years ago, learnt to walk again, but his 3rd time on a ventilator proved too much when his lungs and kidneys ultimately failed him.
I met Joe more than a dozen years ago when he had the great notion to meet up with fellow CLLers at our homes and share our war stories and insider tips. He realized the uniqueness of CLL and felt that we needed our own support and education group with others who lived with our unique blood cancer. It would be different than other cancer groups. It was to be patient led (no nurses, no social workers) and it would be exclusively for CLL families.
Three of us first met in his living room. And as the say, the rest is history, with CLL Society’s 38 CLL specific support and education groups engaging nearly 2,000 members across the continent today.
In recent years, Joe had drifted away from CLL Society though he continued to serve on the patient advisory board. His CLL was quiescent and he wanted to spend time with his family and his boat. He was a busy guy. But he was proud of his legacy.
I will be forever in his debt. And if you enjoy the benefits of one of the CLL Society support groups, you might be too.
His passing is also a cautionary note in these dangerous times. I beg readers to not let down their guard. There is an unpredictable killer in our midst hunting for its next victims. Foil it with a mask and soap and social distancing. Get vaccinated.
I mourn his loss. He was a trusted friend who told it like it was, a skilled and competitive sailor, and a pragmatic visionary.
I hope the winds are filling his sails wherever he is now.
Over the years, CLL Society has grown beyond support groups with live online education, support, research and advocacy services to serve the many unmet needs of the CLL community. But the recognition of those unmet needs all began with a handful of us meeting in each other’s living rooms. I am still reminded of it every time I see the faces and hear the questions and concerns of my fellow patients and caregivers whom I am now meeting monthly thorough the magic of ZOOM.
If you haven’t already joined one of our now virtual monthly support and education groups, find out what you have been missing. Simply click on CLL-Specific Patient Support Groups to learn more. Do it for Joe and for yourself.
Stay strong, stay safe, we are all in this together.