Kyle Woody
The Woody family

The Woody Family – 2012

I’m a proud caregiver for Sarah DeBord, the mother of my two sons.¬† Sarah and I work hard to create a stable life for our children in the headwinds of her terrible disease, a stage 4 metastatic colon cancer.¬† It’s been over 4 years since she was diagnosed.

In 2013 my brain created the spark that with the help of a lot of amazing people is quickly¬†becoming an inferno.¬† We call it Jack’s Caregiver Coalition.

So, what created that spark?

In 2012 a man named Robb had a conversation with his friend Jack.  Jack had lost his wife to cancer.  

Robb and his family were planning a trip to come visit my family for a week.¬† Robb asked Jack, “what can I do during our visit that would make the biggest impact?”

Jack’s response?¬†

“Serve the caregiver.”

The caregiver, Jack explained to Robb, all too often gets forgotten. Especially in times of crisis.

Robb’s family¬†traveled¬†thousands of miles to visit us and when he got there he told¬†me about his conversation with Jack.¬† And then he laid it on me;

“Kyle,¬†I’m here to serve you.”¬†

Those 5 words hit me like lightening.

I didn’t know I was a caregiver.¬† I didn’t know there was a word for what I was doing.¬† I didn’t know why someone would feel like they needed to serve me.

Robb spent the week knocking out my honey-do list.  Among other things, he cleaned my gutters, fixed a squeaky gate, cut the grass, and organized my garage.

But more importantly he helped me understand that I wasn’t keeping all the balls in the air.¬† He helped me understand that was ok. He helped me understand that it wasn’t just my wife and my kids that were suffering;¬†I was suffering too.¬† I had never seriously considered how difficult this whole thing was from my own perspective.¬† In a sense I had forgotten about myself.

It took me a while to process what had happened.  It took me even longer to do something with this new awareness.  But finally, I decided I had to pay Robb back for his incredible selfless act of service.

To do so I decided I would pour myself into keeping the spirit of Jack alive.  I decided that I would build a team that could turn around and take the gift Robb gave me and hand it to the world.

I’ve been blessed with 3 children, my two sons and Jack’s Caregiver Coalition.¬† I intend to raise, curate, and serve each of them with such an intense love and passion that they have no choice but to go forth and make an incredibly awesome impact on the world.

So here’s to you Jack.¬† Let’s “serve the caregivers” and make sure that none of them are ever forgotten again!

Justin Nicolay
The Nicolay family

The Nicolay Family – 2013

I’m a Twin Cities native with a love for the outdoors, traveling and experiencing new places and spending time with family and friends. Leading up to my experience with caregiving, I was a “normal” guy who had it all – the beautiful wife, a precious young son, and a good job. It was a time in my life when I couldn’t imagine how things could get any better. That’s when we heard it – “Mrs. Nicolay, I’m sorry, but you have cancer.” Not just any cancer, but a rare aggressive form of Melanoma. With that diagnosis, my journey as a caregiver began in February 2013.

The devastation of the news was intense, indescribable, overwhelming. Immediately I went into caregiver mode. I was going to find the answers, arm ourselves to fight the battle with knowledge and resources while trying to keep living our lives as “normally” as we could. I understood my role was to do it all and to do it all flawlessly. Keep up a career and home, take care of a sick wife, take care of my son, etc. Anyone who has lived through this battle knows how bittersweet it is. You have moment of great clarity and appreciation for life along with feelings of desperation, exhaustion and depression.Sadly, our journey ended after 17 months in July of 2014. My wife Michelle fought more bravely and ferociously than I ever could have. That caregiving journey may have ended for me but my passion and understanding for what the caregiver’s role is and how they need to be supported has never been clearer.

Through Jack’s Caregiver Coalition, I will pay forward what Kyle Woody, the founder, did for me. He supported me the way I needed it, when I needed it – without me even knowing I needed it. I know I was a better husband, father and caregiver because of the support I received and that is what we at Jack’s Caregiver Coalition will always do for others.

Dustin Cesarek
The Cesarek family

The Cesarek Family – 2013

By 24 years old I had floated around for most of my adult life; moving out of my parents home at 19 and then moving five more times over the next five years. During that time I lived in Nevada, Minnesota, Colorado, and North Carolina. I had big dreams and great ambitions, but at that point I was just unsure as to how to go about fulfilling them. In a way, I was lost.

Then an amazing woman found me. Kim was strong, beautiful, focused, and showed me a love I’d never experienced before. She grounded me, changed me, and shortly before I turned 27, she gave birth to my daughter. My life had changed from night to day in less than three years. Eight months later my life changed again when, while having dinner with friends, Kim got the call What they thought was inflammation from clogged milk ducts due to breast feeding was actually breast cancer. The pain she felt in her chest when our infant daughter would press against Kim’s chest was because the cancer had spread to her sternum. Her first scan showed us that it had also spread to her liver, lungs, and spine.

Since July 16, 2012, I have lived my life three months at a time; which is how often Kim receives her PET scans. We’ve been fortunate to have had a positive response to treatment (for the most part) and good news (given the circumstances) at each scan. While I do my best to make the most of the time that I have with my family, I recognize that our life is teetering on the edge of an abyss, and every three months there is a chance that we will be knocked off the edge.

I can’t imagine the burden that Kim carries as she fights this disease, but I know that I must bear my own burdens in order to support her with hers. What Jack’s Caregiver Coalition has come to mean to me is a means by which my own burden can be lightened, putting me in a better position to be that support for Kim. Jack’s is an avenue by which I can contribute to a community of others who share the experience of that burden so that we might all be stronger for those we love who suffer. Jack’s gives me hope that when the time comes, the fall won’t be too much to bear.

© 2017 Jack's Caregiver Coalition. A Minnesota-based 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization. All rights reserved.