On August 2, 2013 at the age of 51, Jay went in for a routine colonoscopy and endoscopy after attending a 5k for colorectal cancer. Jay was the epitome of health, running 5k’s and mountain/street biking three times a week on Coldwater Mountain. When he woke up from the procedure we never expected to hear the words, “Mr. Gardner you have esophageal cancer stage 4 with 5 lymph nodes affected.” Prognosis is he had approximately 6 months to live. Never once did the thought of giving up cross his mind. He started with intense chemotherapy and even stronger radiation With God, his family, and thoughts and prayers from people all over the country and his community he pushed through. Things were hard, very hard at times but Jay never wavered. He knew he was going to beat this and he was determined with a smile on his face. Four years went by and every day was a new struggle but we grew stronger in our faith which made us a stronger family. As a family we went through hard times because if seeing what this horrible disease was doing to him.We were at every doctors appointment and every procedure. He was the firs to tell you that being a caregiver was harder for us than him having the disease. It was a roller coaster of emotions and not being able to “fix it.” God granted us a period of time that Jay was “Cancer Free” in 2015. In May of 2016 he rode over 20 miles in the Cheaha Challenge Bike Race not knowing that the cancer had come back with a vengeance and metastasized into his lungs. In that time he was able to welcome two grandsons, Cooper Jay Harrelson and Gatlin Coy Goodman. HE was finally going to be a Grandbuddy to his two little buddies getting them their first baseball glove with hopes of teaching them how to play one day. After almost 4 years his oncologist gave us only months to survive but got us approved for a trial study at M.D Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas so on February 19, 2017we flew to Houston. He started with Chemotherapy that infused 13 hours at a time an again he never once losing his faith or his sense of humor.He flew a total of 18 times back and forth to Houston. After several complications we found out that the cancer was located in both lungs and spots on the liver. Upon returning to Birmingham from Houston, the cancer had spread to his spine. After an intense 7 hour surgery on his spine we learned there were a large portion on his spine and the doctors did not know if he would be able to walk or to be paralyzed but the surgery was a success however there were 3 spots on the brain. He insisted on radiation to the brain and knowing this information he fought an fought hard and his faith never wavering. He fought for his wife, his two daughters, more importantly he fought for his two precious grandsons until his final breath. Through the dark times we realized cancer did not take Jay Gardner! It was simple God put him here to be a vessel for HIM to give hope in a hopeless situation. We battled this terrible disease for four years and 2 months and we saw God in every second of our days. We saw a once strong healthy man grow weak physically but grew stronger mentally. Let me show you just a glimpse of what he endured. There were a total of: 10 PET scans, 14 CT scans, 3 ultrasounds, 148 Doctor appointments, 29 procedures, 42 Chemotherapy treatments, 76 radiation treatments, 17 biopsies. The major surgeries included a Radical Neck Dissection, Shoulder surgery to try and repair a broken clavicle from the previous surgeries, stent in the Vena Cava due to a large blood clot, esophagostomy, and a Tracheotomy. All major surgeries caused a number of hospitals stays and 11 of this days in the ICU. HE had an emergency jet flight to MD Anderson and several ambulance rides to various hospitals. There were hundreds and hundreds of needle sticks for blood work and many times broken ribs from being so sick from all the chemo causing excruciating pain with the simplest task of just breathing yet his faith and smile never faded. Jay loved people hands down. He loved physical activities and he loved to help people. The medical field was his career choice late in life because he always felt like he wanted to do something to help people when they were at their weakest. He treated his patients with care and respect. He wanted others to feel the joy that comes with their jobs. Every year he sponsored anonymously a student who was interested in the medical field and paid for their classes never wanting the recognition or attention he deserved. Doing that brought so much joy we wanted to keep this going through a scholarship program. 100%of the proceeds of this race goes to The Jay Gardner medical Scholarship program.
If you had define what Jay was all about he said it best when he always said…. “a little kindness goes a long way.”