One of my best friends, Ryan, took me to Hawai’i for the first time in my life. I was 21.
We slept in his parents’ basement; and drank rum on his dad’s sailboat.
We hiked next to waterfalls and ate dinner surrounded by towering green cliffs.
He took us to this dirt lot, where we walked up to a food truck and got azuki beans, topped with vanilla ice cream, topped with shaved ice and syrup.
It was as global as this Jersey boy ever got. Still is.
That first trip to O’ahu still stands as one of the best moments in my very blessed life.
A lot of the other “best” moments involve Ryan in the day-to-day: chucking discs at the local disc golf course, tipping back a cold one at some downtown Tempe watering hole, standing by his side as he said “I do” to his wife, Janis.
And that doesn’t even begin to mention all the bocce tournaments, Thanksgivings, Christmases, birthdays and Halloweens that he, I, Heidi, Janis and our kids – Beck, Brody, Hailey, Liam – have been surrounded by countless other good friends and enjoyed the finer moments of life.
The dude is weaved into the fabric of my very existence; as is his family.
I can tell a story about his son, or his daughter, with just minimal details to my wife and my kids – and they laugh. They laugh because they know; they can fill in the details.
They are us; and we are them.
So you can imagine how we took the news when we found out that Ryan had cancer.
Maybe you imagine how we took the news when we found out a couple days later that his wife, Janis, has cancer, too.
* * *
If I try to give you the specific details, they’ll suck. I can’t remember who found out first. Nor do I care.
RB – this is what I call Ryan (short for Ryan Brown) – has been through hell and back.
Last year, he found out he had an aortic aneurysm. He needed open heart surgery. He didn’t tell his friends, clearly, about the real risk of his surgery. About replacing a key component of his body with a machine. That the odds said he should die.
He didn’t tell us until he survived.
So, of course, when the latest news about his and his wife’s situation became clear, he downplayed it.
Buck up, suck up, suffer on his own. That’s the RB way.
What a load of shit.
This is a guy who’d give anything to anybody who asked.
So, now, here we are.
He’s not asking.
But I am.
Feel like you owe me something?
* * *
This doesn’t even begin to take into effect that his wife, Janis, has been given a worse diagnosis. Her cancer is angry and I’m not much of an expert, but my friends tell me its serious.
I know that she’s stage 2, triple negative, and trying out two experimental chemo drugs on top of the third chemo treatment. And that all of them are exhausting.
I’ve grown tired describing it, thinking about it … and I don’t even live with it.
They’ll be time, in the days ahead, to deal with the intricacies of what this family must deal with, but right now, I’m faced with an immediacy. These people have been dragged through the ringer. They need your help.
There is no other way to play it.
After two surgeries, a couple serious infections and a month in the hospital, Ryan’s cancer is in remission. There’s much recovery ahead – and the day to day demands of life.
Both are working through this, as close to full time as possible.
The bills don’t go away when you’re sick.
Janis is doing this while making five-times-a-week, 40-mile round trips to the hospital.
I’m not sure how much levity I have. But if I have any, I’ll call it in now.
Sparing the price of one of your precious peppermint lattes ain’t going to kill you. But this thing they have – with the added stress on top of endless bills? … Well, I’ll leave it at that.
The asks are endless, I know. The holidays have drained the bank account, I know.
I know. I know. I know. Believe me.
I also know Ryan and Janis will pull through, because they’re crazy strong and amazing like that.
What I don’t know, is how anybody deserves this battle.
What I hope is that you’ll help.
Much love this holiday season,