My guest this week is Eric Erdman, the founder of the Give a Child a Voice Foundation. When Eric learned he had advanced brain cancer in July of 2016 at the age of 16, he had no idea all the ways his life would change. He faced medical procedures including both brain surgery and eye surgery, and lost hearing as well as sight in one of his eyes. Yet the fear and grueling procedures are not what Eric remembers most about the months after he was diagnosed with Anaplastic Grade III Ependymoma. He remembers the voluntary kindness friends, families, neighbors, and even strangers who helped him find his voice, to share his story and speak out. The coming together of so many different people, all with the same goal of showing support, transformed his perspective on life and inspired him to pay it forward. Today, after four brain surgeries, three rounds of radiation, a round of chemo, and complications, Eric is more excited than ever to continue to help other struggling kids find their voice through his foundation, Give a Child a Voice. While some children battle critical pediatric illness, others face challenges such as bullying and abuse in their schools and homes. In addition to the immediate harm it causes, these difficult experiences can cause long-term emotional suffering. Eric dreams that other kids who experience difficult situations receive the same kindness he received at one of the most vulnerable times of his life. He started Give a Child a Voice to engage the community and get children the help they need so positive change is possible. His dream and movement have become a reality thanks to the work being done through his foundation. I was so beyond inspired by my conversation with Eric. This young man is making the most of his time to inspire and encourage kids who’ve experienced bullying and so much more. I know you are going to be encouraged by him too, so without further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Eric!
3:32 - The Eric 101 Eric started Give a Child a Voice after he was diagnosed with cancer. His foundation helps children who have dealt with or are dealing with bullying, abuse, and life-threatening illness. Give a Child a Voice strives to emphasize the importance of children being able to speak up about their experiences. For many years, Eric did not speak up about being physically and mentally abused and bullied. It took him three years before he felt safe enough to talk about it to just his mom. He told her when he was 16 years old, at the same time as his diagnosis. He was diagnosed with stage three anaplastic ependymoma brain tumor. It is a very rare brain cancer and only 200 kids and about 52 adolescents are diagnosed each year. Eric is now stage four and has been through four brain surgeries, three rounds of radiation (61 sessions) at the highest dose. In August of 2019, he was given six months to live. Eric says he knows his body and how it reacts to so many surgeries and treatments. He’s been accustomed to medical procedures his whole life and says cancer has given him the ability to help others. Eric says he wouldn’t change anything because his experience is helping kids through similar experiences. Often people receive bleak diagnoses and prognoses by feeling sorry for themselves and being negative. Eric chose the opposite. He intentionally decided to take the positive, happy route to help his family and to focus to live in the moments he has now. 14:55 – A Strong Advocate Eric has always been happy, but his diagnosis brought out his personality. He is much more extroverted now and he has become such a strong advocate for children who are victims of abuse, having been bullied himself. Eric realized through his own experience with bullying that confronting a bully isn’t always straightforward. Kids who are bullies may be getting abused at home because of their home environment. Eric encourages those who’ve been bullied to speak up about what they’re going through at that moment