When you pass by Jenny and Greg Fry’s house in Missouri during the month of November, you will see several strands of purple twinkle lights gleaming through their windows. Jenny put them up at the start of November to celebrate Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month.
“In my opinion, I truly feel that pancreatic cancer gets overlooked,” said Jenny Fry. “That’s why in November I go all out and just do purple purple purple, I just want the awareness to get out there.”
When Greg was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2019, the Frys did what they could to document the realities of their cancer journey on Facebook. They have also begun working with Project Purple to spread awareness for this disease. This year, they are continuing their annual Thanksgiving Day tradition of running with Project Purple in our Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month Virtual Turkey Trot, which will take place from November 23-26.
Looking to take part in our virtual 5k run/1-mile walk? Click here!
Would you like to donate to the Fry family’s Turkey Trot team? Click here!
Frys Face Pancreatic Cancer
The Frys’ pancreatic cancer journey began in September of 2019, and like many other patients, the diagnosis came unexpectedly. The Frys had just built their dream house and were in the process of flipping their current home to get it ready to rent. Jenny remembers how right when everything seemed to be coming together, Greg began to feel the full brunt of his symptoms.
“It was Labor Day Weekend, and Greg just couldn’t go anymore,” said Jenny, “but he also got very itchy, so we thought maybe he got into some insulation. The following week he had his annual doctor’s appointment, and his liver function tests were off the charts.”
Within a few days, the Frys were traveling to Columbia so Greg could get a bile stent put in to decrease the itching. Two biopsies later, their doctor finally had an answer to explain what had happened. Greg had pancreatic cancer.
Immediately, the Frys jumped into chemotherapy, starting their first round just a month later in October 2019. Greg went through twelve rounds of chemo, most of which took place during the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s very hard going through cancer in the thick of COVID when you sit in a parking lot for seven to eight hours,” explained Jenny. “It was tough.”
Greg finished chemotherapy in May of 2020. In July, the couple went down to St. Louis in the hopes of getting the Whipple surgery. However, the cancer had grown too aggressive for them to fully remove it. So the Frys left St. Louis to start radiation treatments, moving to the next best option for Greg.
After several more months of oral chemotherapy and radiation, the Frys received a clean bill of health. It was 2021, and the Frys felt like they had finally reached the home stretch, and could get some breathing room. But, at the beginning of 2022, Greg’s numbers began to rise again. Finally, they went back to the doctor, and in August, doctors found a large mass in his liver and several smaller tumors in his lungs.
Now, Frys are looking to the future as they continue their cancer journey.
“We’ve been in and out of hospitals, he’s had thirty-seven rounds of chemo and I think about six or seven bile stents put in,” explains Jenny. “All in the meantime, our youngest is a senior in high school so, the goal is, we’ve got a grandbaby in December for him to see and then he wants to see his youngest graduate high school.”
Throughout Greg’s entire journey, the Frys have always tried to have an upbeat attitude, working hard to keep themselves happy and healthy for themselves and their family. Jenny explains that, for them, happiness and positivity are a choice they make every day.
“You have to do what you have to do,” said Jenny. “We’re content, you know, our motto we live by is ‘life is short, we chose to live it well’ and I just feel it’s a choice, I mean I could sulk in it and I could be down, but instead I get out, I do my gardening, I walk five miles a day… and that’s kinda where we’re at.”
Jenny’s advice to anyone who has recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, or who is struggling with their diagnosis is simple: enjoy the little things in life.
“Enjoy each day you’re given,” said Jenny, “My husband does chemo on Wednesday up in Columbia, which is a couple hours away from us. So, we take a mental health day on Tuesday and take every back road, and just enjoy the scenery and enjoy the time together, have a car lunch… You get so busy in life with this and that, and you really need to step back and take time for each other, and not just when you’re in the scenario of having cancer.”
Now, they are living day by day and making the most out of every moment they have together.
Caring for the Ones You Love
Jenny Fry is a champion caregiver. Throughout Greg’s journey, she has continued to be an excellent parent to her four children while also being a full-time caregiver for her husband. For her though, taking care of others is almost second nature.
“For me, it comes naturally,” said Jenny while explaining how she handles her role as a caregiver. “It’s just kind of in my blood I guess, I’m just a nurturing person and I like to take care of him. Feeding meals, and taking care of him and just everything. You know, people don’t realize that sometimes with chemo there is nausea, there’s diarrhea, there are things that need to be cleaned up and no, they’re not nice things but you do what you have to do. And it’s something I do enjoy.”
However, balancing her role as a mother and caregiver has not always been easy for Jenny. She told a story about how her son posted to social media, stating that even though his dad is the one fighting, his mother has been the backbone of the family.
“Our son did a post on Facebook and he says, ‘My dad is the strongest man I know, I mean he is fighting this like crazy, but here my mom takes care of my dad, and even when she’s exhausted and tired she’s still takes care of me and my siblings,’’’ said Jenny. “You just do it, you don’t have a choice, and I think what gets me through and what gives me balance is my faith, is God.”
Jenny also has begun to take time for herself to cope with the stresses that come with caregiving. She loves the outdoors, and now uses her time outside to reconnect with herself. Living on a small farm, she gets some moments of peace while on her daily walks, or wading through the dirt in her garden at their “flipped” house. For her, gardening especially, is a form of therapy.
Throughout her experiences, Jenny has learned true strength. To her and her family, strength means making the most out of each day they are given together.
“My husband and our four kids and now we have a daughter-in-law and soon-to-be granddaughter, it’s made us all stronger,” said Jenny, “it’s made us appreciate life. To me you should always be appreciating life because no one is promised tomorrow. And when you have pancreatic cancer in your face, you enjoy the day, you enjoy the small things.”
Taking Action with the Turkey Trot
For the Frys, part of their cancer journey has been their advocacy. Throughout November they do their best to show off their purple in any way they can.
“My shirt yesterday says, ‘My God is stronger than pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month,”’ said Jenny while explaining how she celebrates Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. “All the kids, we have shirts, we do the purple, and each day on my Facebook page I put a piece of our story, I put information about pancreatic cancer symptoms, signs, things to look for and just try to get as much awareness out there as I can.”
Project Purple’s virtual Turkey Trot is a 5k run or 1-mile walk that you can do anywhere in the world – whether that means taking a lap around the block, running on your treadmill, or participating in your local Turkey Trot 5k. Each year, the Fry family gets together at their home and together, they go out and do the Turkey Trot together before sitting down to their Thanksgiving meal. Jenny and her family enjoy the trot every year because it gives them a chance to not only raise awareness but also support the Project Purple community.
“I kind of talked to Sam about it,” said Jenny as she recounted a conversation between her and Project Purple’s Marketing Manager, “and I said ‘Man you know, if something was closer, I would 100% be there. And he said, ‘That’s kind of why we do these virtual Turkey Trots, you know because a lot of people want to be involved but can’t get there.’ So, I think that’s a wonderful idea.”
Project Purple provides the whole weekend for families to participate. You can run any day during the weekend, and feel free to split the distance up over multiple days if needed! This event is about taking the time to spread awareness for the cause, so we recommend that you go at your own pace.
The Frys discovered the Turkey Trot through Facebook, where they connected with Project Purple and other families participating in the trot. When you sign up, you’ll receive our awesome Thanksgiving Football-themed Turkey Trot shirt. More fundraising reward details are available on the event page as well. You can join our Turkey Trot Facebook group to stay in touch with the community and receive announcements.
Part of what makes this event perfect for the Frys is the fact that it’s a perfect way to celebrate their family and their cancer journey. For them, Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, and the Turkey Trot, are all ways to work to create a world without pancreatic cancer.
“I think there’s so much in October on breast cancer awareness, and you see buildings that put pink lights up. I truly feel that we need purple lights up in November, and that’s why I decided this year to put purple lights out. It’s just getting the awareness out and getting people to stop and say ‘Oh purple, pancreatic cancer.’ Just simple things like that.”
Click here to sign up or learn more about Project Purple’s Turkey Trot. Thank you so much to the Frys, and to all our families who will be participating in this virtual event over the holiday weekend. And don’t forget to wear your purple!