Adam Klein, winner of 2016 Survivor, on becoming a leading lung cancer advocate
Adam Klein, winner of 2016 Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X, talks to us about competing on the show on behalf of his mother who sadly passed away from lung cancer just days after he returned home from the competition. He shares his perspective on the importance of raising awareness for lung cancer to bring understanding to this often misunderstood disease.
Dr. Kiki: Welcome to Sequenced. Our guest today is Adam Klein. Adam is the winner of the, “2016 Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X.” He competed on behalf of his mother, who was a fan of the show. His mother battled stage IV lung cancer as Klein competed, and she died just days after he returned home from the competition. Klein has donated some of his prize money to Stand Up To Cancer. Adam, welcome to the show.
Adam: Thank you very much for having me, Kiki.
Dr. Kiki: It’s wonderful to have you join us. Can you expand a little bit on this brief introduction that I just gave and tell our audience a bit more about yourself?
Adam: I mean, it sounds a little bit weird that, like, my dream would be to get on a reality television show but from the moment that I saw it when I was nine years old it was always something that I wanted to do. It’s just the ultimate challenge, “Survivor.” It’s a psychological challenge, a physical challenge, mental challenge, emotional, social, it’s any way that you could imagine challenging yourself, the game of, “Survivor,” does that. You’re out there for 39 days, you’re obviously eating very little, you’re not sleeping very well but more importantly, you’re surrounded by these people that you’ve never met before. And you have to figure out how to integrate yourself socially, how to get along with people, how to make real bonds and relationships so that, at the end of it, people want to award you with the $1 million, the title of, “Sole Survivor.”
So it was always just something that was very interesting for me and it was something that sort of always brought my family together. We would always watch it together every single week. And even when I went off to college, I would call home every week, and we would talk about the, you know, most recent episode of, “Survivor.” So at a certain point, I finally decided you know, “It’s time to walk the walk that I’ve been talking for so many years,” and I applied for the show. And actually the first season that I applied for was a family season, and my mom and I almost got on the show together.
So when I did finally get the opportunity to go on my own, and my mom had been diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer, it was the most surreal time of my entire life obviously, and I had some very difficult decisions to make. But ultimately, going and doing this sort of for my family and being out there while everything was happening, it was the most incredible experience of my life, at the same time, it’s my all-time worst nightmare, and it’s still hard to fathom sometimes.
Dr. Kiki: Yeah, it’s gotta be really interesting for you to go back and think on that time of your life and everything you actually went through. But talk a little bit more about yourself and how you were growing up. So this was obviously a real interest for you not only, but also for your family, it brought you all together. Did you do other things growing up that, you know, just were you the kind of family, that were always out doing competitive things, challenging yourself in all these different ways?
Adam: Oh, yeah. I mean, I have a different way of competing with, like, everybody in my family. Like with my brother, he is super into board games, as am I, and so we’ll just…we play board games all the time and we’re always competing that way. My parents and my mom included were super, super athletic. So when we would travel together, when we would go on vacations, we would actually bike our way through wherever we were going as sort of our way of vacationing. And there’s no better way, I think to see a new place than, you know, on foot or on a bike.
Dr. Kiki: Yeah.
Adam: And my mom was always, always dancing. So we would like, even for my 24th birthday, I went to Las Vegas with some friends. And of course, my parents came and my mother came out to the club in Las Vegas with us like, and I have some videos from that and those are things that I really cherish. She could bust up any moves on any dance floor at any time.
Dr. Kiki: So you’ve obviously got some wonderful memories of your mom. She sounds like she was an amazingly-motivating person and positive in so many ways. What other ways did she I guess influence you to be so positive? And you have gone out in your life now even, since, “Survivor,” to be a motivational speaker, and you’re taking these positivity lessons to heart. Like, how do you think she really got that and put that into you?
Adam: My mom was always sort of like the queen of relationship-building. Like, you couldn’t leave the house… We’re from Burlingame, California. And if you would walk down downtown Burlingame, like, it would take you hours because she would make new friends along the way or see old ones and she knew everybody everywhere. And with every person that she interacted with, she took a genuine interest in what it was that they were doing and what they cared about.
So I’ve taken a lot…I used a lot of that on, “Survivor.” I think that was an important piece of why I was able to do well on the show. And I think it’s an important thing that I’ve taken with me for my entire life that you have to genuinely care about people when you come across them. If you’re being genuine with people and if you’re being authentic with people, I think it makes a big difference in your overall happiness, your level of success, your ability to get things done and to work with others.
Dr. Kiki: Absolutely. So going back to, “Survivor,” a little bit, what are… I’ve watched the show before and it seems like people who do the best on the show are the relationship-builders, the ones who work with other people. And it seems like there are people who take the strategy of, you know, “I’m just gonna do it for myself.” Do you have any insight into why people would ever come into this competition with that kind of independent standalone mindset?
Adam: Well, I think a lot of what you see on television these days is the do anything to win attitude, right? And while there are parts of that that can work for you, if you’re doing it while making other people feel bad or making enemies, you’re not building real connections and alliances that you’re gonna need later on. I mean, maybe you can do that once but so many people come into, “Survivor,” or any other reality television show or even other aspects of life and they say, “I’m not here to make friends.” Like, that’s the famous phrase.
And I really just don’t believe that that works for people. Like you can come into, “Survivor,” and you can say, “I’m not here to make friends,” and that’s fine, but you’re not gonna win that way. I don’t think that anybody in the history of the show has ever won, “Survivor,” without making real friendships along the way. I just don’t think that it’s ever happened.
Dr. Kiki: And you’ve been watching for a long time, so you would know.
Adam: Since the very beginning.
Dr. Kiki: Yeah. So what were some of your favorite memories from your experiences on the show?
Adam: Oh, man, so many. But I’d have to say by far the most important thing that happened to me out there, was when there were 9 people left, we started with 20 and when there were 9 people left, on day 33 out of 39, we had the loved ones visit. And that’s when everyone gets one guest from home basically that comes out to the island, and then you compete in a challenge, and the winner of the challenge gets to spend more time with their loved one and choose a couple of people to bring with them so they can spend time with their loved ones.
And at the point in the game, I had this advantage that had never existed before that would allow me if I wanted to, to steal a reward from somebody else that had won it. And with everything going on at home, I needed to see my brother like I needed to know what was happening, and I needed to be able to give information back to him so that he could go home and tell my mom everything that was happening. All of these, you know, shared dreams that we had sort of been accomplishing like, I wanted my mom to know everything.
But I also knew you know that it wasn’t in me to take somebody’s loved one away from them. And I also knew that it would be really bad for me, in terms of building relationships, and making friends, everything we were just talking about. If I were to steal this reward from somebody else, it would sort of negate all of everything that I had that I believed and that I had been working towards.
And so I decided and I announced in advance of the challenge that I would not use it. And what ended up happening was my biggest rival in the game won the challenge. And we had been butting heads the entire time. We just were never on the same page. But he chose me to come along on the reward with him.
Dr. Kiki: Oh my, gosh.
Adam: And I spent some time with my brother. I ended up actually giving that advantage to my rival as a thank you for taking me on the reward. And he had no idea how much it really meant to me at the time. Obviously, he does now, and we’re brothers forever, but being able to spend that time with my brother, to have him tell me that my mom was getting strength from me being out there, and having me being able to say back to him everything that was happening in the game, and how much I loved my mom, and all these words that I wanted him to bring back to her. My mom and I were so connected out there just spiritually, but having my brother as the link between us made the whole thing honestly worthwhile. I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t get that direct interaction with my mom through my brother.
Dr. Kiki: Oh, it’s just amazing that your rival allowed you that opportunity. And, I mean, for people who aren’t familiar, and I think a lot of people are familiar with, “Survivor,” but the way it works is you are isolated during the shooting period, so you don’t have like a daily phone call home or anything like that.
Dr. Kiki: And so you really did need. And your mom during that time period, you chose to leave your mom when you knew that she was deteriorating in her condition, right? And isolate yourself for this show. And so you really didn’t know what was going on at home and your mom… Can you talk about, like, were they sending videotapes home to your mom or was there any situation to keep your mom abreast other than this one opportunity with your brother of what was going on with you in the game?
Adam: Yeah. And so just to touch on what you were saying about, like, choosing to go out there, this really was a family decision. It was the most difficult time of all of our entire lives, and we needed something to look forward to. We needed some hope on the horizon, something we could hang our hat on that says, “This is why we live.” You know, “This is why we keep breathing.” I feel like when you’re surrounded by so much pain and by so much sorrow, it can be really hard to break out of that even after you’ve lost somebody.
I think when people go through grief, there’s so much that can sort of bring you down and keep you from continuing to pursue your passions and pursue your dreams. But I feel like if your family is courageous enough to say, “We’re not done yet. We’re not done living and as long as we’re breathing, we’re not gonna stop.” And that’s the decision that my mom always made her entire life through any obstacle. She never stopped dancing, literally.
A few days before she passed away, my mom was still walking around the block. She was out and about until like the very end of her life. And when I got home, I had an hour with her before she passed away, but she was there with me, and we got to talk, and I got to tell her how much I love her, and she got to say the words back. And that’s the way that my mom always lived her life. So I think a lot of people look at the decision that we made as a family, and say, you know, “I could never do that to my mom to leave her.” And I’ve gotten some pretty honestly hurtful messages, you know, from fans of the show or people that have just heard of what happened. You know, “How could you leave? How could you leave?”
And one, I think, you know, you can’t make that decision until you’re in it yourself and you can’t make the decision for anybody else. And two, for my family, this was the right call. Because even though I wasn’t physically with my mom for those weeks that I was away, I had never been more connected to her in my life. Every sunset that I saw out there, every time I had success in the game, I found an immunity idol or I was able to get out of a really tough situation, I knew that it was my mom pushing me forward.
And every day that she walked around the block here and that she went out to lunch with her friends, and that she gained more physical strength even when the treatment that she was pursuing wasn’t working while I was away, that was because she knew that we were achieving this shared dream together. And she was focusing her energy on something that was positive.
Dr. Kiki: Absolutely.
Adam: Something that could give her a little bit of joy.
Dr. Kiki: Yeah.
Adam: But yeah, it was an incredibly difficult time in my life, and in my mom’s life, and in my dad’s life, and in my brother’s life and it’s, you know, it’s something that still affects me to this day, obviously.
Dr. Kiki: . Did she ever get to see any aspect of the show?
Adam: Yeah. So the whole goal in going out there, like I said, was to bring joy back to my family. And it happened the way that I thought that it would because I imagined us sitting on the couch, like we always did, watching the show, and having one of us on the screen and that being what would bring that joy. Obviously, you know, my mom didn’t make it to that point, but I think that my mom lived it more than maybe any family member in the history of the show.
Because what happened was, during the course of the filming, you know when I left my mom was going through treatment, and during the course of filming they determined that the treatment wasn’t working so she stopped treatment. And the idea was she was gonna regain some strength and some health before being able to go onto the next treatment. But, you know, when you stop treatment, that’s obviously not a great sign.
And there was a lot of concern. And my parents, my dad especially, struggled with what to do, whether he should bring me home. Because I said when I left, I said, “If anything happens, of course, bring me home.” You know, this was a good thing for us but, you know, being there it was obviously really, really important to me if anything, really truly terrible was gonna happen. And so I had said that. And so, you know, my dad didn’t really know what to do.
So what they…he called production and he said, “I might have to pull Adam.” And what they came up with was that if I were ever voted out of the game, they had a helicopter waiting for me at every Tribal Council to take me to the airport, to take me home. But they decided that if I was still in the game, that they would leave me there. My mom did not want to pull me from the game. That’s what she was, you know, getting this strength and excitement from. So in essence, what ended up happening was, my family, got more access to information than maybe anybody ever because they knew if I was or was not coming home.
Dr. Kiki: Yeah.
Adam: So every day, they basically got to check in and find out, “Did I make it through?” And in that way, my mom got some access to information as to what was going on out there. The most came obviously when my brother came back and he was able to just sort of tell her everything. And then when I got home like I said, you know, like, she was there with me and we were able to talk for like an hour. And one of the things that I told her was that I had won.
Dr. Kiki: That’s wonderful. And that, I mean, to have that shared dream to just compete on the show, and then for you to go, and your mom to be able to just gain strength from knowing that you were experiencing this thing that had been so important for both of your lives together, and finally, for you to come home, and say, “Mom, I won.”
Dr. Kiki: How wonderful. That’s so powerful.
Adam: It was wonderful, it was terrible. It honestly, now, it still haunts me a little bit just that like, I did not know what I was coming home to, nobody did.
Dr. Kiki: Yeah.
Adam: I mean, like I said, two days before, she was walking around the block. It was the same moment that I was, like, getting the votes to win at final Tribal Council, like, that the game was ending that she started a very rapid decline. It was like she had, you know, sort of, given everything into it.
Dr. Kiki: She waited. She wanted to know.
Adam: She absolutely waited. And it just…it boggles my mind that the connection that you can have with another human being, even when you’re not physically together, and how much energy she put into me. And I still feel that like, you know, and I’m not a very religious person, but the way that I feel like I connect spiritually with my mom and I think that this is potentially helpful for other people who have experienced some kind of loss, is like, I think about how much of her is literally and figuratively inside me like, obviously, part of her DNA, like the person that she was, has created the person that I am, but also just the way that she existed, the way that she lived her life, the way that she danced her way through it. I feel most connected to my mom when I’m dancing or when I’m making a new friend, the things that I really think about her.
And so every time that I, you know, like you said, I’m doing some speaking now so every time I speak to an audience or every time I meet a new person or, you know, have a conversation with anybody, they’re getting to know me, and through me, they’re getting to know my mom, because so much of her is in me. So the more that I can positively impact the world and positively impact other people, I feel like that’s my mom continuing to do those things. And in that way, her legacy never dies because everyone that I impact will impact somebody else.
Dr. Kiki: Yeah, pass it pay it forward, in that respect. Yeah.
Adam: And I feel like that’s how we can pay our best respects to the people that we love and that have impacted us by continuing to live life the way that they always did, and continuing to try to make the world.
Dr. Kiki: So after winning, “Survivor,” you dedicated the win to your mother, and you created a platform to raise funds actually for and to educate people around lung cancer research. Can you talk a bit about what you’re doing with that now?
Adam: So at the finale, we launched a campaign with Stand Up To Cancer to raise money specifically for their Lung Cancer Dream Team. And through that specific campaign, we’ve raised over $500,000 for lung cancer research. I’ve been continuing to raise money, not just for Stand Up To Cancer but for other lung cancer organizations like the Bonnie Addario Lung Cancer Foundation. And so I have an ongoing campaign page for that to raise money for these organizations that know how to spend the money, they know, you know, where the most promising treatment options are.
And anyone that’s working in the lung cancer space, I’ve sort of, you know, I’ve reached out to them, worked with them, and said, you know, “How can I be of assistance? In what ways can we push this message forward?” Because lung cancer is one of those diseases, that you hear about a lot, but you hear about a lot, pretty much almost exclusively in the context of like anti-smoking campaigns or how to prevent lung cancer, those sorts of things. My mom never smoked a day in her life, she ate totally organically, she worked out every day, she lived the epitome of a healthy lifestyle.
And I think we forget that with lung cancer, just like any other cancer, you can just get unlucky. And you can’t always chalk it up to something. And I think by ascribing so much sort of blame on smokers and smoking or living in a smog-filled environment or doing something else to contract the disease. There is such a stigma surrounding lung cancer that it doesn’t get the funding that it needs, it doesn’t get the attention it needs. And people will gloss over the fact that their loved one had lung cancer. I mean, more people die every year from lung cancer than the next top three cancer killers combined.
Dr. Kiki: Wow.
Dr. Kiki: I had no idea.
Adam: And know but people don’t. Nobody knows that about lung cancer. If you’re a non-smoking woman, you have a better chance of passing away from lung cancer than breast cancer.
Dr. Kiki: But that is not the thing that’s advertised. I, as a non-smoking woman, I’m more concerned about breast cancer.
Adam: And I’m not saying that you shouldn’t do everything that you’re doing for breast cancer and that we shouldn’t invest also in breast cancer and all of these other diseases, but I do think that we overlook a disease that is taking way too many lives, whether you’ve smoked or you didn’t smoke, it doesn’t matter. Nobody deserves to get lung cancer. And we have to do better and invest I mean, we just haven’t come very far in this disease. The five-year survival rate for stage IV lung cancer, which is the majority of lung cancers are diagnosed at a late stage, it’s very, very low.
And if you happen to have lung cancer and are listening and don’t wanna hear any statistics, please turn this off now, but I think it’s important for the rest of the population to know that the five-year survival rate for stage IV lung cancer is less than 1%. And it’s the most common cancer that’s out there. We have to find better ways to detect this disease early and to treat it when it’s not caught early. And we just aren’t there yet.
Dr. Kiki: Yeah. I mean, you go to your yearly annual checkup and, you know, the stethoscope is put on your chest and you breathe in and you breathe out and they listen to your heart and your lungs, and then, you know, if it sounds good, you’re good to go.
Adam: Yeah. And my mom had no symptoms. You know, she would never have known that she had lung cancer. It was diagnosed because she had pain in her shoulder. And by that point, the reason she was having a pain in her shoulder was she had a massive tumor in her shoulder that had already spread outside of the lung. So even though the tumor in her lung was very small and she didn’t have any, like, she was working out every day and breathing totally fine, but she had stage IV lung cancer.
And right now, we don’t have any…the only screening that’s a pre-screening that’s available for lung cancer, like, there’s no mammogram, there’s no pap smear, there’s no, there’s nothing like that, the only screening that’s available is for people who have smoked for over 30 years. So, you know, even like that I met someone recently at a lung cancer summit, who both of her brothers had passed away from lung cancer and it still didn’t make her eligible for any sort of pre-screening.
Dr. Kiki: Wow.
Adam: And she had to sort of advocate for herself. She was obviously concerned. And she basically… Like her doctor would test her every year for pneumonia, for pneumonia. Really, he was looking for lung cancer…
Dr. Kiki: Lung cancer.
Adam: …but he had to do that to go around the system so that her insurance would pay for it, yadda-yadda. And she had lung cancer. And that’s the way that lung cancer is, like, being diagnosed at an early stage. It’s always this freak thing like somebody had an accident and then they happen to get a chest x-ray or they happen to get, you know, a scan or they demand it, whatever. But that can’t be the status quo. That can’t be the way that we’re diagnosing early stage lung cancer.
Dr. Kiki: Yeah, especially, as you said, it’s one of the largest killers for cancer. Yeah.
Adam: So we have to invest in other ways to figure out how to stop this disease. And I hope that whatever little visibility I had or have from being on this show I wanna dedicate it to this cause. Not because it’s the only cause that I care about, there are other causes that I’m really passionate about, obviously. I come from the nonprofit sector so I’m sort of a non-profitty kind of guy, but this is the one where I feel like I can make the most impact right now because it’s in a space where there aren’t that many voices that are being heard.
Dr. Kiki: Have you talked with people, I mean, like the anecdote that you told of the woman with her brothers, all of them having lung cancer, I mean, there’s obviously a genetic component. So have you talked with anybody about genetic screening? Or that are there people looking at that, doing that?
Adam: I certainly would want to. I’m not a doctor and I’m not a medical expert or a researcher, so I can’t say conclusively, of course, that there is a genetic component, but you’ve got to imagine that there’s other things there that maybe we haven’t looked into, because so much of our focus has been on smoking. And again, I’m not saying we should stop anti-smoking campaigns or obviously, we should make sure that kids aren’t smoking, that teenagers don’t start smoking, that adults can get help in quitting, but we can’t only be looking at smoking as one of the potential causes for this disease and genetics may be a component. And we have a lot of things that we can now get sequenced, you know, for other kinds of cancer that can help you identify if you have an increased risk for that disease. Nothing exists yet, as far as I’m aware, for lung cancer. But I have to imagine that there’s something out there, and we just need to invest more, I think.
Dr. Kiki: Right. It’s about turning over all those unturned rocks and stones, and finding out what risk factors are there, and figuring out the tests that we can start doing. I mean, it really is amazing to me that there’s…I can’t go in, you know, even if I know my family has an increased risk, that I have an ancestral hereditary, may be increased risk of lung cancer, that I can’t go into a doctor and say, “I’d like to have a genetic screen. I’d like to have this,” and that insurance won’t cover that. I mean, that’s, yeah, it seems in…I’m just my mind is just kind of boggling at it actually.
Adam: Well, I mean, I understand why they don’t screen all of these people now because the screening mechanism isn’t good enough. So like if you are getting screened for lung cancer that means you’re getting like a full scan, and the scan has the potential to, you know, have false positives, which could lead to an unnecessary surgery or something like that. The scan has the potential to be damaging in and of itself from the… So and that could lead to, you know, if you aren’t able to find enough people with the disease then maybe the one person who has an adverse effect to the screen, you know, I can understand why they don’t do it if the technology isn’t good enough. We just have to get to the point where the technology is good enough, and we’re, “Yeah, if you have it in your family history…” Maybe that’s one of the next things that Color will be able to find is, “There is a link, a genetic link, and this is one of the ways that we can test for it.”
Dr. Kiki: Yeah. Have you done any genetic testing yourself?
Adam: I actually just put my Color kit in the mail yesterday. And but my brother did it and got his results back. And we actually, we did an ancestry thing, as well and my brother just got it back and found out that we are 99.9% Ashkenazi Jew.
Dr. Kiki: Wow. Okay.
Adam: And 0.1% Native American. I don’t know how that’s possible.
Dr. Kiki: Fascinating.
Adam: I don’t know how. I honestly cannot figure out for the life of me how that is possible but…
Dr. Kiki: But isn’t that the wonderful thing about these tests? I mean, you know, you look at however far back you can…people can remember whose mothers and fathers were and you say, “Okay, I think I know what my ancestry is.” But then you do these tests, and things are brought to light that, you know, it opens you up to new ideas, I think.
Adam: I’m just trying to possibly imagine how an Ashkenazi Jew thousands of years ago in Europe was able to get with a Native American.
Dr. Kiki: Yeah, that is yeah it’s an interesting question, right? Yeah, one of the original Native Americans, maybe the 20,000 years ago, Native Americans, who crossed the Bering Strait.
Adam: Maybe. There you go. Now I need like, a populations expert, to tell me how that could possibly have happened.
Dr. Kiki: Exactly. Can you tell us specifically about the #LiveLikeSusie?
Adam: Yeah. So this was something that started… I was trying to figure out a way to really, like, unite this campaign and allow people to discuss it on social media. And LiveLikeSusie just makes so much sense to me because that’s the way that I try to live my life. So much, like I said, of her is in me, and she was always laughing and smiling, and dancing, and being compassionate towards others, and putting herself out there, trying new things, exploring the world. These are all things that I try to do in my day-to-day and that I think about when I think about my mom. So every time that I think I can’t do something or that, you know, I’m worried about trying something new, I think about my mom. And I wear every day, I’m wearing it right now, a wristband that says, “Live like Susie,” that my cast of, “Survivor,” made not just for me, but for all of themselves, for the audience of the live finale. I have a bunch right now that I give out to people.
And it was right before we went out on stage for the live reunion and finale, I knew I was about to go on stage and one, win, “Survivor,” but two, have to talk about, you know, my mom’s passing away on national television.
And it was obviously a really scary thing to have to do. And right before we went out there, we sort of gathered in a circle, and they all…they said a little…that a few words and then everyone rolled up their sleeves and they were all wearing these wristbands. And, of course, I started crying and I got out there. And I had already cried a lot on the show just with everything that was going on. I think I set the record for most tears ever shed on, “Survivor.” But then, it just, you know, “Now we’re gonna go on live television and I’m already crying.” Because I was like, “Oh my God, you guys.”
Dr. Kiki: That’s wonderful.
Adam: But it just inspires me on a day-to-day basis. And I hope that some of the other people who we’ve given these wristbands too have felt the same thing.
Dr. Kiki: Yeah, I hope so, too. I mean anything that can get the message forward for people to advocate more for lung cancer, also to live inspirational lives, to find ways to be motivated themselves. What is next for you, as it relates to advocacy for lung cancer awareness? Do you have anything else on the horizon?
Adam: Yeah, I mean, like I said, and unfortunately, there really just aren’t that many voices out there that are being advocates specifically for lung cancer and lung cancer research. You know, I think the mention of lung cancer on, “Survivor,” and it came up a few times, is one of very, very, few instances, where the words are even said anywhere, you know, on national television. So I certainly don’t consider myself famous or a celebrity or anything like that, but I do have a little bit of visibility from the show. And whatever of that I can dedicate to this, that’s what I wanna, do.
So, you know, I’ve worked with the American Lung Association, American Cancer Society obviously, Stand Up to Cancer, Bonnie Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, LUNGstrong, LUNG FORCE, which is an initiative by the American Lung Association, LUNGevity, all of these different organizations are working on lung cancer. And I’ve done, whether it’s fundraisers or speaking engagements or advocacy campaigns with them. And obviously, I plan to continue doing that.
But I’m also speaking to other organizations as well, and it’s not… And oftentimes, maybe the best way to let people know about lung cancer and to find other advocates for the disease, is to go outside of the existing sphere of lung cancer advocacy. So anytime I speak to any audience, whether it’s a school or a company training, lung cancer is a part of my story, my mom’s story, my family’s story. And so no matter the audience, I’ll at least bring it up in any speaking engagement that I do. And so hopefully, more people start to think about this disease and think about how we can move forward.
Dr. Kiki: Yeah. And then as we do move forward, what do you suggest we all do? How can we live like Susie?
Adam: I mean, the best way that I live like Susie is just to treat every person with the same kind of compassion and respect that you would treat your own mother or that you would want to be treated yourself. And so there’s I feel like there is so much negativity these days, not just online, but I feel like there’s so much hate that’s being bred all over the place. And people have never been more convinced that they are right than today. I mean, we’re getting so polarized and people are becoming even more than passionate about what they believe, in a way that is just we’re pushing each other away. I really feel like that’s what I’m seeing in the world today.
And the more that we can bring each other together and understand that everyone has a reason for the way that they think and they feel, even if we couldn’t disagree more, and just to try to get at that, you know, “Why are you the way that you are?” Like, “What influences did you have in your life that, you know, created you into the person that you are today?” And if we truly understand people better, and I think my mom was exceptional at that, then I think we’re living like Susie, and hopefully we’re gonna just reduce some of the vitriol that we see around us.
Dr. Kiki: That would be pretty wonderful. I can’t help but be reminded of the quote, “Dance like nobody’s watching.” You know, “Sing like nobody’s listening. Love like you’ve never been hurt.” That instead, we can maybe change it to, “Dance like Susie.”
Adam: Oh my, God. Every time I do one of these speaking engagements, I show some videos of my mom and the ones that get to people the most are I have, like, dozens of videos of my mom dancing in every situation, and I put it up on a big screen, and I just let them loop while I’m talking. And people, like, notice nobody else is dancing in some of these videos. Like at a concert or like in the backyard. And she was just always moving and always dancing.
And I think that it’s more than just a literal description of the way she lived her life. I think it’s a good metaphoric description of the way she lived her life as well. And the more that we can keep dancing, just like my mom always did, I think the better off the world’s gonna be. Just bringing that light and energy, into everything that we do.
Dr. Kiki: Absolutely. Is there anything else that you’d like to add to our conversation?
Adam: If people are interested in learning more about the Live Like Susie campaign and potentially having me come and speak, whether it’s at your school or your organization, your nonprofit, your company, that’s sort of that what I’m up to these days. So I’m actually launching my website today, so this is sort of good timing. It’s adamklein.com so just my name, and you can go on there, and learn all about the campaign, what we’re doing with lung cancer research and awareness. And all of the different ways that you can live like Susie.
Dr. Kiki: Thank you so much for joining me today, Adam. It was a really wonderful conversation. I enjoyed speaking with you.
Adam: Thank you so much, Kiki. I really appreciate the time and having me on the podcast.