Hope in action: Thanks a million, Bob
Cancer survivor Bob Chernesky of Palatine didn't take a holier-than-thou approach when he talked with men about their health. He let his experiences speak for themselves.
An outreach volunteer with the American Cancer Society for more than 15 years, Chernesky counseled men with cancer and spoke to thousands about prevention and healthy living. But he always began by naming things he'd done wrong himself: smoking, drinking, exercising too little and eating too many fatty foods.
"Poking fun at himself helped Bob put people at ease," says a close friend. "He used warmth and wisdom to get guys thinking ... he challenged them to take charge of their own health."
A financial planner who survived prostate cancer and melanoma, Chernesky gave talks at community centers, hospitals and workplaces. He stressed the importance of annual checkups and screenings and always stayed behind to answer questions from men too reticent to speak out in a group.
Networker, trainer, builder
Chernesky trained other volunteers and built bridges between the Society and organizations such as the Wellness Place in Palatine and the local chapter of US-TOO, the prostate cancer support group. He often accompanied new patients to US-TOO meetings just to help them get started.
He was the founding father of the Men's Health Task Force, a group based in the Society's Northwest Suburban Regional Office in Arlington Heights. Chernesky built the group from three members focusing on prostate cancer to a larger team of 20 that now includes doctors, caregivers and survivors.
Reaching out to millions
With the task force, Chernesky worked to create an award-winning men's health video, Real Men, Real Stories, Real Hope.
He shared his story on camera and helped edit the four hours of raw footage into the powerful 10-minute presentation that can now be seen on Google.
The video became the centerpiece of the Million Man Challenge, the task force's effort to reach audiences nationwide. The University of California, Project Brotherhood and the Centers for Disease Control have made it part of their own outreach programs.
Chernesky was diagnosed with lung cancer in January 2007, but he continued to recruit and train new volunteers and gave talks between his cancer treatments.
Chernesky attended his last task force meeting this May. He passed away two weeks later. He is survived by his wife, Mary, four children and 12 grandchildren - and a corps of dedicated volunteers who will keep his passion alive for years to come.
- Source: American Cancer Society