Patrick Lennon, CEO and founding partner at ROI Media Direct – a preeminent radio and television direct response advertising agency handling such top tier clients as LifeLock, Regus Office Solutions, 1-800-DENTIST and many others – conceived the “No Limits” Award Mission after refusing to let a myriad of major medical issues derail his career dreams. “Despite all of the medical setbacks in my life, I feel very blessed, and I’m looking forward to shining a light on the 2012 ‘No Limits’ Award Nominees.”
The son of a former prizefighter turned successful real estate developer, Lennon, 44, received his first life-threatening body blow at only six-years-old, when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The doctors didn’t offer his parents much hope, but Lennon would beat those odds only to develop spinal meningitis, a harbinger of more medical challenges to come.
By the time he was 18, Lennon had broken 12 ribs, punctured his left lung, broken his pelvis, and broken his collarbone five times as a result of auto accidents. Undeterred, Lennon, who also overcame alcoholism and dyslexia as a teenager, earned a degree in telecommunications from Pepperdine University, and elected to try real estate sales right out of college.
“I was driving to an appointment one morning when a truck lost some cargo, causing another driver to swerve violently into my lane at high speed,” Lennon said. “My head hit the steering wheel, but I thought I had dodged a bullet even though my car was totaled. I was wrong. My vision began getting fuzzy, so I went to a neurologist and was diagnosed with an extremely dangerous condition known as hydrocephalus or ‘water on the brain.’”
Lennon was rushed into surgery where doctors implanted the first in what would be a series of shunts over several years to drain excess fluid and relieve the pressure on his brain and optic nerve. When he awoke, he found himself totally blind. While he eventually regained about seventy percent of his vision, the shunt would malfunction, requiring additional brain surgeries. Several more shunt failures were to follow, with each procedure costing Lennon more and more vision. “One time it failed after a sky diving outing; another time on vacation in Italy of all places, where I had to have more brain surgery,” he said.
Despite the scary setbacks, Lennon doggedly continued pursuing his ultimate dream of establishing his own advertising agency specializing in radio and television media buying. He started his company out of his apartment, and later scraped together enough money for a one-room office in San Diego, hired a part-time media buyer (who is still with the company) and, while being legally blind, began making cold calls and gradually growing his agency. One of those calls was to Dr. Greg Cynaumon, Ph.D., a highly successful marketing professional, author and radio and television scriptwriter.
“We met for coffee, hit it off and began discussing ways we could team up to take my small boutique agency to the next level,” Lennon said. “Greg introduced me to Zeus Peleuses, a long-time radio industry sales executive, and the three of us agreed to a partnership.”
While the business flourished under the new partnership, Lennon’s health took another ominous turn about eight years ago. A routine CT scan revealed a heart aneurysm that could have killed him instantly. In addition, the scans revealed a large mass in his chest, which was later biopsied and diagnosed as a rapidly spreading form of late stage Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Again, his chances of survival were poor. The doctors aggressively treated the cancer first, before turning their attention to the aneurysm. “Here I was married, with a newborn child, the agency on a roll, and now this?” Lennon recalled. “The only word that came to me was ‘Really?’”
Despite nine months of treatment, which included six weeks of chemotherapy and three months of radiation therapy, Lennon rarely missed a day of work. When the treatments concluded, he was bald and virtually sightless, but he was cancer free, or so he thought. “My wife and I went to Hawaii to celebrate the good news. We had a wonderful time, but on the flight home I felt a nodule on the side of my neck. My worst nightmare was soon confirmed – the cancer had returned after just 30 days.”