“Love you, mean it,” is an endearing expression that’s close to the heart of Amy Jones, who is battling stage four rectal cancer. Jones was diagnosed in January of last year and chemotherapy and radiation treatments have been unsuccessful. Since then, it has metastasized to her lungs.
But, that hasn’t discouraged her from fighting for her life and she has sought out an alternative method to force the cancer into remission, as she traveled to Houston, Texas last week for a three-week trial program at the Burzynski Clinic.
Because the procedure isn’t approved by the FDA, a majority of the treatments are uninsured and are costing Jones, who is affectionately know as A.J. to her loved ones, between $100,000 and $150,000. She has to pay a monthly fee of $4,500 just to be part of the program, as well as $30,000 per month for medication.
To assist with her medical bills, her family and friends founded the Love You, Mean It fund. (LYMI)
“I think she wrote a $16,000 check the other day just for her consultations and deposits,” said Jones’ friend and co-worker, Krystle Madeiros. The women work together as dance and cheer coaches at the East Celebrity Elite Gym in Connecticut. “We’re trying to get her story out there to get donations.”
Along with Madeiros, another coach at the gym, Stefanie Thetonia is helping raise funds. Both women have a high opinion of Jones and are in awe of the way she handles students.
“She takes in to consideration everyone’s strengths to highlight the team,” Thetonia said.
Jones coaches nearly 300 children. Whether her students are from Rhode Island, Connecticut or elsewhere, she cares not only about improving their dance techniques, she’s also invested in enhancing their confidence.
“Some coaches make you feel pressured but she’s more patient,” said her student Paige Mitchell, 11, of Scituate Middle School. “She pushes us and makes us better athletes.”
Colby Burns and Adam French also coach at the gym and described Jones as an enthusiastic instructor. Burns said she’s the type of person everyone loves the moment they meet her and French feels the same.
“The most impressive thing is her willingness to learn to be better and apply it to the kids,” he said. “She thrives off that. The kids see how passionate she is and in turn they want to be like her.”
For Jones, who was interviewed via phone from the Houston clinic, the children help keep her spirits lifted. While they tell her she is a positive influence on them, she thinks the same of them.
“They are helping me get through this situation, which has taught me that there still is so much good out there,” she said. “I can’t believe how many people are willing to help.”
She arrived at the clinic on Wednesday and will stay there for a maximum of three weeks. When she returns home, she’ll continue taking the new medications that suit her best. Being away from her students, Jones said, is the difficult part.
“It’s been really hard for me to leave my students,” she said. “I still work there full-time because it’s important to me that they still have normal lives and that I’m still there for them.”
However, she is happy doctors are optimistic about her health. They told her they are confident they will be able to push the cancer into remission.
“If there weren’t people doing fundraisers for me I wouldn’t have that plan,” said Jones. “They are literally saving my life.”
In the future, Jones said her goal is to continue the fund and help others in need.
“Hopefully, we can carry this on,” she said.
For now, LYMI is raising funds for Jones. This Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Buffalo Wild Wings at 850 Hartford Turnpike in Waterford, Connecticut will donate 20 percent of everyone’s tab to the fund if they mention the cause.
Also, a spaghetti dinner on March 16 at the Oakdale Firehouse at 444 Chapel Hill Road in Oakdale, Connecticut will benefit the fund. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased on the LYMI website at LYMI Fund.com. T-shirts, hair bows and bracelets are available to help to raise awareness. Not only will contributions help cover treatments and medicinal costs, it will also provide relief for hotel and travel costs.
“A.J. is one of the strongest women I’ve ever met,” Madeiros said. “She’s the type of person you just gravitate towards because she’s outgoing and funny.”
To make a donation by paper check, please make checks payable to the LYMI Fund and send them to 1434 Hartford New London Turnpike, Oakdale, C.T. 06370.