10 Questions With Joe: Jim Galvanek, Cancer Survivor, Ironman & Entrepreneur

Tuesday 27 March 2012 | Joe Witte

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jimgalavanek 10 Questions With Joe:  Jim Galvanek, Cancer Survivor, Ironman & Entrepreneur

Jim Galvanek is one of MycroBurst’s first clients and has used MycroBurst multiple times for logos, web sites and the award-winning design of his book cover for Day Zero To Ironman. MycroBurst proudly supports Jim Galvanek and his efforts to raise money for cancer research. We are proud to have him as our first interviewee for “10 Questions With Joe,” presented by our Co-Founder, Joe Witte.


1. What went through your mind when you found out you had Leukemia?

Jim Galvanek (JG): I didn’t really know what it was. I always thought that stuff happens to other people, especially older people, not to me. I had no idea that it ran in my family. I knew there was a problem when I had problems seeing out of my right eye. So before the final diagnosis came in, there was a possibility that it could have been something else such as lupus, diabetes, MS, Sickle Cell or AIDS.

When we finally got the blood tests back and it was Leukemia, there was a strange relief that I didn’t have AIDS, which would have been a death sentence back then. Oddly enough, I didn’t freak out until after I received treatment and was cleared. I actually suffered from PTSD after I was told I was cured.

2. After getting knocked down when you found out that you had cancer, what inspired you to keep getting up and then go on to run a marathon and finally an ironman?

JG: I was knocked down for a long time, probably around 6 years after I was cleared when I decided to run my first marathon. I wasn’t dating, everyone was getting married, and it seemed like my life stopped. After many cancer therapy sessions, I realized that everything I was feeling was normal.

So, one way to keep myself in good shape was to learn to run a marathon, and learn how the body works to sustain than, and also raise money for cancer research. After my 8th marathon and I wasn’t nervous, I knew I was ready for another challenge. My Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) coaches talked to me about the incredible journey that takes place to prepare for an ironman. It just seemed like the next challenge, and it coincided with aiming to raise $140.6k (one dollar for each mile of the ironman) with TNT (Team in Training) for the LLS.

ironmanblog1 10 Questions With Joe:  Jim Galvanek, Cancer Survivor, Ironman & Entrepreneur
Jim Galvanek

3. What’s harder, training and finishing the ironman, or enduring chemo and having a bone marrow transplant?

JG: Apples and oranges. I made sure I was in great shape before I went in to get my transplant, which the doctors attributed to my successful recovery. But they were very different and nobody was giving me Vicadin at mile 22 of a marathon!

4. While competing for Washington D.C.’s Man of the Year fundraiser, you raised $164k for the Leukemia & Lymphoma society. How did that help you heal emotionally by winning that award?

JG: It made me feel like I could make a difference as an individual and helped me with speaking to large groups and self-promotion. Each year I try to do one campaign. I just lost a friend and fellow coach this year to Leukemia and so that helps drive me to continue to the next steps. But I still often look forward to, “what’s next?”

5. What’s your advice to someone who wants to run a marathon, or God forbid, complete an ironman?

JG:  Start with a half marathon. Humans are not meant to run that far, so you need to develop the muscle groups to sustain a 26 mile marathon.

6. Who has been your greatest inspiration as you’ve persisted through your journey, and why?

JG:  When I was going through the ironman training, they have little baseball cards of kids with cancer. I had met a little girl named Hannah who had Leukemia who really inspired me. In her photo her hair was really short from chemotherapy treatment. Just seeing her like that was a major motivation.

I taped her quote that said, “lady bugs bring good luck,” on my bike. When I saw the smile on her face it really helped me get over the big hills. There are so many more such as my donor, Tom, who has been a huge inspiration, considering his blood is in me. And Lance Armstrong has had a huge influence as well.

7. What has drawn you to become an entrepreneur?

JG:  Honestly, I can’t work for someone else. I think some people are born entrepreneurs. I don’t think we’re designed to sit at a desk all day. It causes so many back issues and obesity.

ironmanblog 10 Questions With Joe:  Jim Galvanek, Cancer Survivor, Ironman & Entrepreneur
Galvanek’s award-winning book cover.

8. As an architect and artist, you played a major role in the design of your logo, website and book cover- how did you gain inspiration for those designs, and how important do you think the design has been in helping to gain recognition in your fundraising efforts?

JG:  I’m very right brained, and I have thousands of doodles. So I just started sketching the logo. I have to say it was creative intuition. Having a great logo made it easy to sell apparel (hats and shirts) and I think that in today’s age, people buy things because it looks cool. We walk down an aisle and see 400 different toothpaste brands. I buy the one with the best brand.

Having a good design is critical, whether you are raising money for a fundraiser, or trying to brand a small business.  For the website, I used blood cells as the inspiration. I knew the site had to be both creative and easy to navigate.

9. What’s your advice to a business owner who is struggling in their business to persist?

JG: Find something that will motivate you. For example, one year I used a collection of photos of people who had cancer to motivate me. Use vision boards, cut out pictures. If you are stuck, just start doing something until you GET focused. Be aware of your weaknesses, and shut off distractions in order to stay focused on what the end goal is. Stephen Covey books have been an outstanding to help to keep me focused. Following a plan with 7 habits in mind, keep them in front of you, carry them with you and read them daily.

10. If you have one piece of advice for people who either have cancer, or know a loved one with cancer, what would it be?

JG:  I’d say 2 things, take good physical care of your body and reach out to someone who has experience and can help guide you through the process. It’s too challenging to try and do it alone, so don’t be afraid to reach out for help to the right people. And, I’ll add one more, give back as best you can, it’s the most rewarding part of a very difficult situation.

ironmanblog2 10 Questions With Joe:  Jim Galvanek, Cancer Survivor, Ironman & Entrepreneur

To donate or purchase Galvanek’s book, visit DayZeroToIronman.org.

In 1998, Jim Galvanek was a 27 year old architect living in Washington D.C. when he was diagnosed with Leukemia. After a yearlong battle with the disease, which included a bone marrow transplant from an unrelated donor, intensive chemotherapy and radiation, Galvanek was cleared of cancer. After what should have been a celebration, Jim felt that his work wasn’t done. He wanted to become a part of the solution to help cure Leukemia.
In 2008, Galvanek won the “Man of the Year” award for his fundraising efforts for the Leukemia and Lymphomas Society (LLS) in Washington DC. He raised over $164,000 by training for the Lake Placid Ironman. Galvanek completed the Lake Placid Ironman and is the only known unrelated bone marrow transplant cancer survivor to complete an ironman.
He continues to help others train for long distance events, coach triathletes and marathoners and has just completed his book, “The Ironman’s Guide to Cancer Survival – My Journey from Beating Cancer to becoming an Ironman.” He is also busy with his newest endeavor, raising his newborn daughter Lily with his wife, Michelle.


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    What an inspiration you are Jim! Congratulations on all your successes and most of all your uplifting attitude. God bless.

    Chris C

    Good stuff guys. Someday your efforts will rid this world of a nasty disease.

    Joe Witte

    Thanks for the kind words. Jim has focused most of his fundraising efforts towards research. He had mentioned that the technology and strides we’ve made over the last 15 years have improved dramatically. Thanks Jim!

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