Standing up to cancer: Local fundraiser to inspire area residents battling the disease

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Submitted photo
Kristan and Jey at Duke Medical Hospital in Durham, North Carolina.

Think of three individuals you regularly communicate with each month. Study after study suggests that roughly 33 percent of people will be diagnosed with some form of cancer at some point in their lifetime.

Throughout Salem, there are people currently dealing with lung, breast and liver cancer among other diseases.

Jey Tyree grew up in Salem. Those who knew him best say that he loved life and lived it to the fullest.

Said his girlfriend, Kristan May, “he was really adventurous and never had a problem making people smile.”

“Fishing was his favorite hobby by far,” she added. “Some of my favorite memories with Jey are the many times we went to the Outer Banks to enjoy the beach.”

“He had a way of just lighting up a room,” Terriann May, Kristan’s mother, said. “Jey made people feel comfortable when they were in his presence.”

After a year-long battle with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, Tyree, 35, died at Duke Medical Hospital in October 2017. For the eight months that he was hospitalized, Kristan was right by his side serving as his caregiver.

She says she would get to his room about 9 a.m. and stay until 11 p.m. On many occasions she ended up spending the night. “Every week was different. He started to retain a lot of fluid and ended up gaining about 55 pounds, which resulted in massive blisters on his legs. They had to drain out the fluid. The pain was excruciating at times,” she said.

Within a few days of losing the love of her life, Kristan posted a heartfelt message on Facebook. It read: “After praying for guidance and direction, the Lord answered by ending Jey’s suffering. Neither one of us ever gave up. I would have never been able to let Jey go on my own. Jey had a stroke in his sleep. I got to crawl into bed and hold him tight until the Lord took him into his arms. He was very peaceful. He had me holding his body, CJ (his sister) rubbing his hand and Kate (his friend) rubbing his feet. I will love him so much forever.”

Since leaving North Carolina, Kristan has been on a mission to raise approximately $5,400 through the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society by June 22. Roughly $3,200 has been raised so far for “the world’s largest voluntary health organization dedicated to fighting blood cancer.” Additional donations, which are tax-deductible, can be made by visiting http://pages.teamintraining.org/va/zionpark18/KMay. Terriann encourages people to also search “Jey’s Journey” on Facebook for other ways to help in the fight against cancer.

“In honor of Jey and other people battling blood cancer, I am going to be heading to Utah in late June to hike for a cure,” Kristan said. “I am nervous about hiking to Zion and the commitment overall, but I know that Jey would be so proud. Let’s stop cancer from stealing more precious lives.”