It is with great sadness today that everyone at The Samfund is mourning the loss of our friend and Board member, Jeremy Hill. He brought so much to our organization through his generosity and commitment to making things better for young adult survivors… but today it is his friendship for which I am most grateful.
About five years ago, The Samfund received a $500 donation from a total stranger. When I emailed him to thank him and to find out how he had found The Samfund, he responded that he had seen my story in the Livestrong book and wanted to reach out because his family and friends had been touched by cancer, and even with resources available to them the experience was still a difficult one. He was compelled to give because he could imagine how much more complicated cancer could be when finances became a factor, too.
That’s one of the amazing things about Jeremy. He “got it,” even without having gone through it himself. He was able to put himself in other people’s shoes and genuinely wanted to do what he could to make things easier for them. He joined our Board several year later, at the same time as he joined the Board of another cancer organization in New York.
So the irony was surreal – the only word that comes to mind, though it isn’t even close to adequate – when he called me several months later to tell me that he had just been diagnosed with advanced cancer. I remember exactly where I was sitting.
That conversation – and those that followed – immediately catapulted our relationship from a brief, professional one to a more meaningful and intensely personal friendship. Because of our shared history, he had included me in a tiny circle of people who knew what he was going through, and amidst the fear and uncertainty and sadness and anger, I was honored. An incredibly private person, he trusted me with his story and I was grateful and determined to support him as best I could. Very quickly and very deeply, Jeremy became my friend.
It was truly amazing to watch Jeremy navigate his cancer experience. He was, hands down, the most well-informed, determined self-advocate I have ever seen. Given the unpredictability of his diagnosis, he educated himself on every single option and made the best decisions he could as to the course of treatment. He had a powerful army of medical professionals, family members and friends who had his back and while he remained both hopeful and realistic about what might happen, he knew he was never alone.
Things got worse, quickly, and I went to New York last week to see him. I knew it was going to be a difficult visit, and I had no idea what to say. We had a long conversation without saying much. It was hard for him to talk because of the morphine, so I just sat with him. What I did say was how lucky I felt that our paths had crossed and how grateful I was to have had him in my life. I thanked him for being my friend. As hard and as emotional as it was, I know what a gift it was to be able to say goodbye.
I didn’t know Jeremy for a long time. I don’t know what his favorite color was, or what kind of music he liked. Our friendship was one that not many people knew about, because he was very private about his story and I kept my promise to him not to share it until he decided to. But our bond was a deep one and I will never, ever forget him.
So, through my tears, I will say a final goodbye to Jeremy here. Thank you for touching my life and for inviting me into yours. Thank you for all that you have done for The Samfund. You will forever be part of our organization and we will do our best to honor your memory.
Rest in peace, my friend.