Hey I Just Met You: Accepting the Helping Hand of Strangers

Rubik’s Cube: A Piece of the Puzzle Solved 

The first 30-days, post-diagnosis, were marked by F—fear, fun, friends, family, and fact-finding (f*cking cancer was still to come). Fun-filled activities were coordinated to forget, if only for a few hours, the new reality and quiet the associated stress. Most of the time I felt helpless and haunted by unknowns—treatment protocol, life expectancy, would I be able to have kids, should I freeze my eggs, recurrence rates, prognosis, financial concerns, insurance coverage and more. Many of my initial decisions were made from a place of fear as opposed to confidence. I sought answers from people who I thought knew better about what was right for me than I knew for myself. I connected with many cancer thrivers, but most of them had chosen a much different path than I was looking into and I felt unsure of the direction I was headed in and alone. Until I reached out to Jerry, and the pieces started to come together.

Jerry was the Director of Operations for the wellness company I worked for in Vail. Fear prevented me from contacting Jerry sooner than I did. I’d only met him once in person while he was passing through Colorado and talked to him a handful of times over the phone during our team meetings. I left the company last spring, and while I didn’t leave on bad terms, I wouldn’t say it was my ideal exit. Several months after resigning and being out of touch with my former co-workers, with my tail between my legs, I reached out to Ben, the owner, in the hopes of picking his brilliant mind about innovative treatment options. Thankfully he responded promptly and provided me with a science lesson on the metabolic activity of cancer, and then encouraged me to talk to Jerry. Weeks went by before I took Ben’s advice. What I didn’t know at the time, was that reaching out to Jerry would turn out to be one of the best decisions I made. 

Most people who have been diagnosed with cancer will tell you they had friends and family who said the wrong thing, said nothing at all or suddenly disappeared. When friends and family are not there for you in the ways you expect them to be, staying focused on your one and only objective—getting well—can feel like an insurmountable task until you meet your Jerry. Let me explain. Your Jerry, or mine, in this case, is someone who is there for you like you could never have imagined possible. It is a person who joins you on this journey, answers your questions, listens to your concerns, provides invaluable insight, and goes out of their way, in every possible manner, to alleviate stress and add joy to your life. Jerry was what I would call an acquaintance before I moved into his home for the summer, and now a trusted friend. Your Jerry could be a stranger, acquaintance or casual friend or family member. Essentially, it’s someone who you didn’t expect to be there for you, but is, in ways beyond your wildest dreams. Be ready for this person to come into your life or you just might miss them as I almost did. Allow me to introduce you to: My Jerry.

On May 3rd, with “cancer counseling?!” as the subject, I sent Jerry an email stating I’d spoken to Ben, who convinced me I must reach out. The next morning I received an email full of treatment protocols, an introduction to cancer specialists, and an offer to talk. At the time, Doug and I were on the road to drive back to Rochester where my family was to explore the possibility of staying there for treatment. After a couple of days in Upstate New York, it became abundantly clear that Rochester was not my treatment answer, but after talking to Jerry, I kept seeing visible signs that Phoenix might provide me with the information I was seeking. The day we returned home to Colorado, May 11th, I sat down and booked two tickets to Arizona. 

On May 14th, I met Jerry face-to-face for the second time. No time like the present to make a good second impression and mine was terrible. I’d overdosed on medicinal marijuana shown to heal cancer. It happens to be extremely potent and not fun like you might be thinking. To avoid further embarrassment by my overdose, I came clean to Jerry right away regarding my stoned and stuttering state. Jerry was unaffected by my news and familiar with the benefits of Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) aka Phoenix Tears or as they’re called here in Colorado: Colorado Tears (purchased legally at the local Native Roots dispensary). He also understood why someone diagnosed with cancer would be compelled to reach the medicinal dose, 1 gram, as quickly as possible, disregarding the instructions to build your tolerance slowly. For one of the first times since my diagnosis, I felt understood. I had done something most people don’t do (overdose on medical weed to heal cancer), and this guy didn’t even blink. A lot of people would have judged, criticized and questioned my reasoning. That kind of response, at that stage of the game, would have sent me into a fit of tears over doubting myself, my choices, and intelligence. Upon first live cancer counseling session, Jerry had given me the greatest gift, a safe place where I could be myself free and clear of judgment.

During our visit to Arizona, Doug and I talked to Jerry about all things cancer. Jerry openly and honestly shared his cancer experience with us (which is not for the faint-hearted) covering aspects we hadn’t thought of, providing order where turmoil had existed and hope where fear ran deep. His candor put me at ease. I was in the presence of someone who not only knew what they were talking about but understood my thought process and didn’t question the plan I was constructing. Jerry knew how to talk to two people who were afraid, didn’t know what to expect and needed guidance. He wasn’t there to tell us what to do or make our minds up for us, but instead offered a nonjudgmental listening, experienced and educated ear, which allowed us to hear our thoughts and start making informed decisions. Through active listening and trusting in my ability to make good choices for myself, the second gift Jerry gave me was confidence in the path I was about to choose. 

As we all got to know one another better, Jerry continued to tell us that if Arizona had the treatment that was right for me, his house was ours. I could barely accept that we were staying at his house during our short visit, let alone wrap my head around the idea of moving into the house of someone I didn’t know very well while I received cancer treatment. So while we got ourselves acquainted with the Phoenix/Scottsdale area, we looked into hotel options and apartment buildings with short-term leases. I had planned to tell Jerry thank you, but I cannot take you up on your offer. As it turned out, all of the places we visited felt uncomfortable; not nearly as warm and inviting as Jerry’s. 

My Second Home, Motorcycles and Miracles 

Many will tell you, the most stressful period after getting diagnosed with cancer is when you’re playing the waiting game. Whether it’s waiting for test results, doctor appointments or the big one: waiting to decide what your treatment is going to be. Waiting is purgatory. Once a decision has been made, an enormous weight lifts. After interviewing the clinic in AZ the week before, I woke up on Tuesday, May 19th and knew I couldn’t wait anymore. I bought a ticket, packed my bags, and hopped a plane to Phoenix. With only a few hours notice, Jerry changed his plans, greeted me at the airport, took me to his home, helped me get settled in, and told me he’d accompany me during my first day of treatment. How many people do you know who will drop everything in an instant to help you? This kind of effort is a big deal for most, especially someone you hardly know.

After three consecutive days of treatment, there was no way I was boarding an airplane home, as was my plan. Get a few days of treatment. Head home. No problem. Just kidding—big problem. Jerry saw the poor shape I was in and instructed me to rest and make myself at home. I called Doug to let him know I wasn’t coming home and slept the rest of the weekend. When Doug drove my car and belongings down several days later, Jerry welcomed him with open arms. What I mean by that is, Jerry told him he could take any of his five motorcycles whenever he wanted, wherever he wanted, including the Ducati. 

Doug and I moved into Jerry’s home as if it were our own. We filled the closet with our clothes, stuffed our belongings into drawers, and stacked our mountain bikes and gear in the garage. I took over his empty bachelor-pad refrigerator filling it with mass quantities of greens, grass-fed meat, and supplements. Our days kicked off early with treatment starting at 7 am, followed by me sleeping a lot and Doug working. Per the doctors orders, we’d spend afternoons by the pool sucking in the prescribed 20-minutes of sunshine on each side with no sunscreen (*vitamin d levels are vital to health). Post-sunbathing, we attended hot yoga to cleanse the body, mind and spirit, before ending our day with a whole foods nutrient packed meal and some premium channel TV watching.

Jerry never batted an eye at all my cooky healing protocols. Although he was shocked at the amount of food I brought into his home and commented that his condo had never seen so much food in it at one time. Jerry made us feel at home and offered a safe place to unload all the fears, conflicts and emotions that Doug and I were experiencing. Regardless of what came pouring out of me, Jerry provided sound advice unique to the cancer journey.

When there was nothing left to talk about, there were bikes to ride. One, already hot, Saturday morning, Doug took me on my first 125-mile motorcycle ride through the dry, desert, saguaro filled terrain of Arizona. Freedom. Doug was able to reconnect with an old love, and I found a new one. The open road offered a new perspective. It provided an adventurous and exciting way to take in a fraction of the beauty of the world. Jerry didn’t have to do any of what he was doing. He certainly didn’t have to loan us his toys. The third gift Jerry gave us was the gift of freedom. From here the gifts were endless.

When the time between my treatment began to increase, and we were able to pack up our belongings and move back to Colorado, Jerry assured us we’d continue to have a place to stay and a car to drive when we were in Phoenix. Just two weeks ago he picked me up at the airport, took me to treatment and dropped me back off at the airport when it was time to go home. Keeping this post at a reasonable length prevents me from going into the full depth of how Jerry supported Doug and me during the most challenging period of my life. I’ll reserve a chapter in my book! The truth is, I will forever be grateful for the considerable support he provided. As a reminder, if we go back to May of this year, I’d only met Jerry in person once.

Trusting in the kindness of strangers can be scary, and it was, but it may just be the best decision you make as it was for me. Knowing I can never fully repay Jerry for all that he’s done for me, I strive to embody his generosity and pay it forward.

Gratitude, Thanks & Pay It Forward

Asking for or accepting help was not something I was used to or good at pre-diagnosis. I’m sure I’m still not great at it, but my experience with Jerry and other strangers (stories to come later) taught me that help and support would be there for me, but not always in the package I expected. Instead of feeling as though I was inconveniencing people, taking up their time or being a nuisance, I chose to accept help from acquaintances and strangers as it rolled in. Without Jerry, and these other incredible, friendly and compassionate people, I’m not sure how I would have made it this far. If you have chosen to help someone in need, and may be questioning how much good it’s doing, trust me, it means the world.

To Jerry, and those friends and family, old and new, chosen and given, who have rallied to support me… Thank you. You know who you are. You helped me research. You put me in touch with the right people. You flew out here to take me to my appointments and showered me with love. You held me tight when I was so scared and afraid. You drove all over the country and moved your life to Arizona. You watched the dog. You provided meals. You offered a much-needed distraction. You cried with me. You talked me through my darkest moments over the phone. You sent me books. You mailed me weekly cards. You sent thoughtful care packages. You reminded me of my strength. You gave me the tough love I needed but didn’t want to hear. You went out of your way to brighten my day. You had us stay in your apartment a block from the beach. You provided complimentary yoga. You made a difference. You gave me my life back.

Thank you.

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