People from all of the world travel to Time Square to see six-story models and city block-long marquis lit up on the brilliant billboard that illuminate the area night and day.
From now until November, they’ll be seeing 53-year-old Marc Weiner’s several hundred-foot, bespectacled face there, too.
And he hopes that just one of the square’s 330,000 daily visitors will be kind enough to give him a kidney.
The message on the 5,000 square foot billboard the bladder cancer survivor’s generous friends purchased him is simple:
‘My name is Marc. I need a kidney. YOU can help!’
Above Broadway musical billboards in Time Square looms Marc’s 5,000 square foot billboard advertisement seeking a kidney donor
Marc was diagnosed with bladder cancer two years ago.
He was stage I when doctors caught it, but when they operated to rid him of the disease, his doctors found that had actually spread to his kidneys as well.
So all three organs had to go.
Since the operation, Marc has been cancer free. He’s well enough to travel periodically, work as an executive TV news producer and even play basketball with his buddies in Great Neck, New York, on Sundays.
But there’s a catch: three times a week, Marc spends four hours sitting at the hospital for the dialysis treatments that act as a substitute for his missing kidneys, filtering metabolic waste from his blood.
‘It’s keeping me alive, but, at 53, [the doctors] told me I’ve got to get off of dialysis because it’s hard on my heart,’ Marc says.
‘It won’t give me longevity.’
Dialysis tends to harden the arteries and veins because it comes with increased levels of a compound called phosphorus, which binds with calcium into a stiff substance that lines the blood vessels.
For the most part, Marc’s quality of life is reasonably good, but travel has to be planned way in advance and involves a tour of local hospitals and he can’t ‘ride all the rides’ with his 12-year-old daughter, Lilly.
He is relatively lucky, and he knows it. Though his cancer was a bit unique, once bladder cancer spreads to other organs, the five year survival rate is only 35 percent.
For two years, Marc has been cancer free, which means that he’s now finally eligible for a kidney transplant.
But there are over 100,000 people on the waiting list for New York alone. It could be five to eight years before Marc has a shot at a new organ.
‘It’s not that I’m going to die, it’s that my health is better if I have a live kidney donor,’ Marc says.
His wife, Lisa, is in the process of getting tested to see if she might be a match to donate a kidney to Marc.
Marc goes for dialysis treatments for four hours at a time, three times a week
At first, Marc was hesitant to display his face on a giant billboard, but his daughter, Lilly (center) and wife, Lisa (right) encouraged him to go for it
But a former colleague of hers at the had a suggestion: think bigger; much, much bigger.
‘He said, “What can we do? how about a billboard? A 5,000 sq ft billboard calling to action?’ Marc recounts.
‘At first, I was like, I’m not going to do this, I’m not going to put my big fat face up there, this is silly. But my wife said “are you kidding me? You should do this!”‘
He did it.
‘Now, someone could walk by from Burbank, California, or Vermont, or Atlanta, Georgia and see that,’ Marc says.
For $3,500 a month, paid by his friends at City Outdoor Advertising company, Marc’s billboard dwarfs others for the Broadway shows The Kinky Boots, Jersey Boys, SpongeBob SquarePants and Gettin’ The Band Back Together beneath it.
It’s monthly cost is a little more than a tenth of what getting a new kidney costs.
‘I’m very fortunate. There are thousands that don’t have that opportunity, so I’m even more grateful,’ says Marc.
‘If I can shed light on what people like me go through, that’s a good thing.
‘It’s not easy to ask for help, to look to others to help save your life, but life is the most important gift, it’s better than anything on the planet. I know people don’t have the same resources, but you’ve got to be creative, cast your net and creativity wide.’
Marc’s billboard with his message and a link to his website will be up through November, running periodically day and night.
Meanwhile, Marc’s hope’s are about as high as his ad is tall.
‘I think positive, I love life…and I’m going to find a new kidney,’ he says.