The title of Josh Nova’s 3-minute video is “My Unremarkable Life.” That’s what he calls the past 20 years. He’s just a regular Westport neighbor, working hard, married and raising 2 kids.
But the fact that he has lived for the past 20 years is remarkable. In 2001 — 24 years old, and just starting “real” life — Josh was diagnosed with an aggressive form of stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
A brutal treatment regimen battered the disease into remission. But a few months later the cancer reoccurred in the base of his skull. The prognosis was grim.
Josh had a stem cell transplant. He spent the next 22 days at Weill Cornell Medical Center. Family and friends visited every day, lifting his spirits.
One — a budding filmmaker — had a camera. He and Josh filmed the constant flow of visitors, and the equally steady parade of doctors, nurses, technicians, orderlies, food service workers, and others who helped him recover.
The video cassettes ended up in a shoebox. Occasionally, Josh thought about them. But he was preoccupied with living, not almost dying.
He married a wonderful woman named Ria. They spent 8 years in Hong Kong, then moved to New York. In 2014 they bought a summer house in Westport, where Josh’s sister Jodi Nova-Robison lives.
When COVID struck last year, Josh, Ria and their kids — 10-year-old Ollie and 8-year-old Marley — moved here full time.
A few months ago, as the 20th anniversary of his 22-day hospital ordeal neared, Josh wanted to reconnect with the people who helped him survive, medically and emotionally.
Providentially, while going through his closet in January, he spotted the shoebox with those long-ago tapes.
He no longer had the technology to play them. He had them digitized. Then he waited a bit, steeling himself for the impact of watching them.
When he did, he felt “so uplifted and heartened,” he says. “It was amazing to see that moment in time, captured. We were all so young!”
Josh has been active on the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society‘s regional board. They asked him to help this year’s fundraising campaign. Each year, 10 people vie to raise the most funds. The winner is Man or Woman of the Year.
Josh contacted Dave Schwartz — the friend who provided the camera back in 2001. Now an Emmy Award-winning producer in Minneapolis, he turned the 3 hours of tapes into a 3-minute video. (Click below to see.)
That’s now the focal point of Josh’s Man of the Year campaign. Thanks to friends, family and social media, he’s about half-way to his goal.
Now it’s time for the “06880” community to join in. Let’s make Josh the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Connecticut/Westchester Man of the Year!
As he raises funds (the goal for all 10 candidates is $1 million), he ties his 2001 experience to the 2020-21 pandemic.
“Beside the miraculous medical care I received, the human connections buoyed my spirits and guided me through my fight against cancer,” Josh says.
“This past year has reminded us all of the importance of those human connections. This has been such a dark time for everyone, but there is so much light in those videos. I wanted to highlight all those people.
“It takes a huge village — a community — to fight through adversity. Mine was cancer. This is COVID. Whatever it is, we all pull together.”
Twenty years ago, Josh says, he received a lot of love. Now we can help him pay that love forward.
(Click here to donate to Josh Nova’s Man & Woman of the Year fundraising campaign.)