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Who Says I Can t?: A Two-Time Cancer-Surviving Amputee and Entrepreneur Who Fought Back, Survived and Thrived Paperback – February 1, 2010

5 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Jothy Rosenberg is not a celebrity but an Everyman, which gives his wrenching story of astonishing grit its inspirational power. After being told, when he was nineteen, that he had no chance of surviving the cancer that had already cost him one leg and one lung, Jothy made a decision: He would ski until he died. Instead he became one of the first beneficiaries of then-primitive chemotherapy, a champion one-legged, one-lunged skier, swimmer and cyclist, and an early model of how to triumph over cancer and disability. For anyone who trying to turn a cancer diagnosis, major disability, or even a major life challenge into a character-building experience, this well-written book is indispensable. --Jonathan Alter, Newsweek columnist, MSNBC commentator, cancer survivor

Anything is possible and Jothy s courageous journey proves that. In his book, you find the inspiration to take the first steps yourself toward a life of greater happiness and wellbeing. --Uta Pippig, legendary marathoner and president of Take the Magic Step

The Pan-Mass Challenge coined the term Living Proof some fifteen years ago. Nobody epitomizes that phrase, or our mission, better than Jothy Rosenberg. The challenges he has faced in his life have been hurdles, not walls, to leading a fulfilling life. In a world overflowing with hype and artifice, Jothy s journey and triumph is real and inspirational. He is a true role model. --Billy Starr, Founder and Executive Director, Pan-Mass Challenge

From the Back Cover

"You have zero chance of survival." 

That is what I heard when my doctor explained the severity of the cancer that had returned three years after it took my right leg. Now the cancer was in my lung, and that would have to be taken as well. 

What I heard was that I had no chance of survival. What he actually said was, "No one so far has ever survived once this type of cancer spreads through the blood stream." Same difference to a 19-year-old who had already lived through three years of hell and thought he'd faced the worst. The end was eminent, that was the message. 

That was 36 years ago. I survived. And then some. 

This book is about how the psyche handles the idea that the end is near, the changes that take place within a person who thinks he will soon die, and ultimately how one can not only survive but fight back, recover and thrive. This is not a "cancer book." Those are written when the survival is new and fresh and the experience raw. Instead, this book, written with more than 36 years of perspective, is about human perseverance, adaptability, and strength. 

This is not an autobiography. I am not famous and have not changed the world. But I have a story to tell, one that might help others. I was as devastated as one can possibly be after losing a leg and a lung and enduring a year of chemotherapy, all the while thinking I would die any day. I used athletics to redevelop my confidence and became a double black diamond skier. I earned an advanced degree and went on to become a serial high-tech entrepreneur.

Jothy Rosenberg is a 52-year old above knee amputee. He lost his leg to osteosarcoma when he was 16. Three years later the cancer metastasized and 2/5 of his lung was removed. He survived and went on to get a PhD in computer science, author two technical books, found six high tech companies, ride seven times in the Pan-Mass Challenge bike-a-thon, swim 15 times from Alcatraz to San Francisco, and build a wonderful family with a loving wife and three children. 

A portion of proceeds from this book go to the Pan-Mass Challenge for cancer research and treatment at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 239 pages
  • Publisher: Bascom Hill Books (February 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 193545613X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935456131
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,363,579 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jothy Rosenberg, north of 50 by a little bit, is an above knee amputee caused by osteosarcoma in 1973. Three years later the cancer metastasized and 2/5 of his lungs had to be removed. A course of chemotherapy -- only just out in clinical use in 1976 -- is probably why he is still here today. He went on to get a Duke PhD in computer science, be on the faculty of Duke University for five years, to author three technical books, to ride in the Pan-Masscahusetts Challenge bike-a-thon supporting the Dana-Farber cancer institute seven years, and to swim sixteen times from Alcatraz to San Francisco to support Boston Healthcare for the Homeless Program. In his entrepreneurial persona, Jothy has founded seven high tech companies where he has been Chief Executive Officer, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Technology Officer, or Vice President. In starting those companies, he raised more than $85 million in venture capital, with two of those companies providing a return of more than $100 million each. He could not have done all these startup companies if he had not developed the will power, determination, and focus that came from what happened to him, and if people had not kept saying, "I bet you can't," every place he turned. All told his athletic fundraising efforts to date have netted the charities over $100,000. Jothy has a wonderful wife, three kids, a grandson as well as a multitude of golden retrievers. He lives (and swims, and bikes) in Newton, Massachusetts. He wrote his book Who Says I Can't to try to share what he learned in over 35 years living as a cancer survivor, an amputee, as someone who has recovered from very intense life trauma, in the hope it accelerates that learning for those in a similar situation and perhaps motivates and inspires those just needing a little lift.

Jothy transfers a portion of the proceeds from this book to the O'Brien Osteosarcoma fund at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
If you tell Jothy Rosenberg there is something you think he can't do, chances are better than good that is just the thing he will do. Chances are even greater he will leave you in the dust while doing it, too. He's like that. He's probably always been like that, but what has really strengthened Jothy's perseverance to take on life at full throttle, meet and beat every challenge he encounters, has been his experience of being a two-time cancer survivor.

Who Says I Can't is Jothy's memoir, published in 2010 by Bascom Hill Books. It is the story of "a two-time cancer surviving amputee and entrepreneur who fought back, survived and thrived." Jothy is an above-the-knee amputee with two-fifths of his lung removed, both due to cancer while still in his teens. He considers "considering" a dirty word (as in, "You're good, considering you are missing a leg!"). Jothy does what he does perhaps in some aspects because of his physical challenges, but he achieves excellence that can be measured against any able-bodied person. A math major at Kalamazoo College, he went on to earn a PhD in computer science at Duke University, authored two technical books, founded six high tech companies. He has also participated in the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge bike-a-thon (supporting Dana-Farber Cancer Institute) seven times; has completed the swim from Alcatraz to San Francisco as part of a fundraiser to support Boston Healthcare for the Homeless 16 times; and has participated in countless other fundraising sports activities. He now lives in Newton, Massachusetts, with his wife Carole, and is the father of three children, grandfather of one. Writing a book to inspire others with his story is just one more item added to his long list of achievements.
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Jothy Rosenberg is an inspiration! I've ridden next to and behind him on many Pan-Mass Challenges, and while he doesn't know me, I now feel I know him. What I'd seen on during the PMC was a tough, strong cyclist with a heart of gold and a damn strong left leg (16-17+ mph on rolling terrain is nothing to sneeze at for two-legged cyclists). Now I know just how tough and inspiring he really is. This book is a must-read. The writing is clear and coherent. The stories are told plainly and well. It doesn't matter your connection with cancer, athletics, or cycling. This book connects at a level of humanity that's honest and unforgettable.
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I gave up sleep to finish reading this book before the end of the Pan Mass Challenge this year - although I didn't participate, I thought it would be fitting to be reading this book as the PMC was taking place. (Jothy is wearing a PMC jersey on the front cover, so I'm not giving anything away with this comment.)

I absolutely loved this book and I would enthusiastically recommend it to anyone who considers reading it. I should caveat that my perspective when I started reading this book may be different than most: I know people who work with the author and therefore already knew about his successful professional career, and one of the most important people in my life is also "differently-abled" and puts me to shame in terms of her accomplishments and physical activity.

Nevertheless, this book is awesome: it's funny, it has a great message, it's candid, and it's pretty easy to read. Because I didn't always have time to read a whole chapter in one sitting, the only thing I would've found "better" is sub-titles each time there was a major break in a chapter (which were demarcated by extra space between paragraphs).

Here are my three favorite parts of this book (no spoiler alert needed):

(1) The "sweatpants incident" - I literally laughed out loud because I knew what the author would find most upsetting.
(2) The elementary school fund-raiser - once you read the book, there will be no explanation needed.
(3) The "As I was doing [X], I saw people doing it [Y]..." I read that and did a facepalm `cause I knew what followed - the author would try to do it [Y].

Finally, each time Jothy made a reference to "two-leggers," the term "muggles" came to mind: besides the two words sounding similar, I guess there *is* something magical about people like Jothy and my differently-abled friend leaving us "normal" folks in their dust...
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Format: Paperback
At 16, Jothy Rosenberg was a typical teenager. With little warning, he found himself in an operating room, his leg being amputated above the knee as a precaution to prevent the spread of an aggressive bone cancer.

Suddenly, this normal kid found others avoiding him and labeling him "disabled". "Who Says I Can't" is the story of how the author responded to those difficulties.

At first, Jothy reacted as most adolescents would: by overcompensating and pushing against his limits. Every time someone mentioned something he couldn't do as a disabled person, he defied them and proved that he could meet each challenge, whether it was swimming, volleyball, skiing, water skiing, or whitewater rafting. After his amputation, Jothy's early adulthood was characterized by a compulsion to prove himself not just equal, but even superior to "normally-abled" people.

However, "Who Says I Can't" isn't just a litany of Jothy's physical accomplishments as an amputee. The book is much enhanced by the perspective that Jothy has gained in the thirty-five years since his amputation. As he gradually adapted to and accepted his disability, the confidence Jothy gained by pushing his physical limits manifested in other aspects of life. The pattern he'd established -- of attacking the most ambitious challenges head-on -- served him well throughout his education and his professional career as an entrepreneur.

While the book might seem narrowly focused on his physical disability, Jothy points out that we all have to come to terms with others' perception of us as less than capable at some point in our lives, even if only as a result of the natural aging process. How we respond to limitations and our loss of capability are among the deepest questions we all must face.
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