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Jammin For Jamie
Friends, Family Rally For Neathery Benefit
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At 51 years young, Jamie Neathery, center, enjoys a sunny day on her porch with her son Jeremy and mom Valera Cashman. Neathery was diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer in mid-April, after close to a dozen tumors were discovered on her brain. The tumors are believed to have metastasized from the lung, where the cancer had gone undiagnosed prior to spreading. - photo by Teresa Hammond/The Leader
If love and friendship were all it took to cure cancer, there would be no need for a “Jammin’ for Jamie” Benefit event. The event scheduled for Saturday, July 11 at the FES Hall is a fundraiser being staged to benefit Oakdale native Jamie Neathery, who is currently battling an aggressive form of lung cancer.
Neathery, a woman described by friends and family as someone who asks for nothing and gives everything, was first diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer in April of this year.
As a massage therapist, personal trainer and overall ‘wellness’ fanatic, Neathery was very in tune with her body and how it performed. Her early symptoms of feeling off balance and seeing spots, led her to believe she might be suffering from a sinus infection.
“I was ignoring every single one of them,” she said of the early symptoms. “I never really realized how really sick I was. I just kept pushing through.”
Continuing with 20 mile bike rides and leading her boot camp group through grueling workouts, Neathery had no reason to believe her health was in danger.
It was not until April 16, 2009 when she could no longer see the keys on the keyboard of her computer that she realized she needed to see a doctor and fast.
As a wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend Neathery is accustomed to being self sufficient and independent, which would explain her driving herself to the doctor with her 12-year-old daughter Aimee in tow on that fateful day.
Stopping in for a visit with Dr. Mahida, she was quickly referred to Modesto Radiology, where an MRI was performed.
Neathery recalls reviewing the pictures of her brain as “like looking at a Christmas tree,” she said, indicating that there were so many spots lit up in the scan she could hardly count them.
She was immediately placed on a steroid known as Dextin and set up for a rigorous radiation treatment.
“The Dextin worked great,” she said. “I began feeling like normal almost right away.”
Within the first 10 days of the initial findings, Neathery began her radiation treatment directly to the brain.
“It was the same treatment Lance Armstrong went through,” she said of a documentary she watched on the cyclist. “They put this mask, like an animal mask on so they could mark where they wanted the radiation to go.”
“They did 10 straight radiation treatments to her brain,” younger sister, Peggy Herndon said. “A treatment every day for 10 straight days with the weekend off.”
Herndon also shared that the doctors had stated there were two things that saved Neathery’s life, her excellent physical shape and the fact that she finally sought out a doctor.
“If she would have gone three more weeks, she would have been dead,” Herndon said.
Following a full body scan it was determined that the cancer had originated in the lung and metastasized to the brain.
With everything happening so quickly, there was very little time for Neathery to process what all she had undergone in two weeks’ time.
Now, barely three months following her diagnosis Neathery describes the overall experience as “very emotional,” stating, “My family was not a problem. I knew they would be there and stand beside me and support me no matter what.
“The hardest part,” she candidly shared, “was giving everything I have worded so hard for. With the chemo you lose all your muscle. There’s no balance, you need help to get out of a car.”
Aside from a body in optimum shape at 51 years young, Neathery had poured much of her time and dedication into not only Metamorphosis, a wellness center she co-owns with a partner, but her clients as well.
“The chemo eats the muscle,” she said. “And I do go to Brian (Ching) at the gym (Fitness Plus) and he helps me because his kid (Trevor Machado-Ching) had it (cancer) too. And he tells me, what are you doing? Get some exercise in. Because you’ve got to get it going. You’ve got to get some exercise in to help rebuild.”
As a wellness expert and trainer, traditional medicine is not the path often taken by Neathery. Opting for ‘healthful’ alternatives, prescription drugs are typically the last place she turns, but this is different.
“I have no choice,” she said of her chemo treatments. “I’m a wife and a mother and a daughter. I have to live. I am not going first.”
Her workout regime has also changed, but she steadfastly keeps to it as much as she can.
“I just need to do something everyday,” she said of her exercise.
Some days that something might be as simple as shopping. While she enjoys looking around at shops and stores, it is the walking she is doing that really delights her.
Neathery currently is on a chemo drip prescription weekly. The prescription drip schedule was altered from every three weeks to every week after seeking a second opinion at UCSF.
“I really, really don’t have any discomfort,” she said of her present condition, admitting to the hair loss following treatment as disheartening at first. Neathery shared she now enjoys her wigs, likening them to putting on a new outfit and having ‘fun with it.’
And ‘fun with it,’ she will have on Saturday, July 11 as community members gather in her honor and on her behalf as part of the Jammin’ for Jamie Benefit. The event was, oddly enough, the brainchild of two separate circles of individuals who love Jamie, as well as her family, and just wanted to do something.
“Anybody who knows the family just wants to give back,” longtime family friend Jacoba Lynn said of the community response.
Lynn, along with a group that has grown to almost two dozen volunteers, has met each Monday night for the last eight weeks planning the event. And while economic analysts may tell a story of doom and gloom, these volunteers have yet to experience an ounce of that.
“We have great donation items,” Lynn said of both the live and silent auction prizes. “As long as we have the attendance we are going to have a great event.”
The outpouring of community kindness has left Neathery’s husband Bob speechless, especially as he looks out over a standing room only crowd gathered to help plan and run the fundraiser.
Choking back tears, Bob simply stated, “It’s just overwhelming. It leaves you speechless.
“We’ve both lived in this town our whole life. We’ve helped people out and never expected this,” her husband continued. “That’s just who Jamie is, she’s a giver. She just likes to make people happy.”
“That’s why we’re here,” volunteer and business owner Roxanne Razo said, “for her family.”
Sister Peggy Herndon said it’s also about getting back to ‘normal’ as much as possible, and throwing an event that Neathery will enjoy.
“I just want her to party like we used (to),” Herndon said. “We used to really party together.
“If she wants to dance on the bar, I want her to dance on the bar. This is her party.”
With the spirit of the committee and the family behind it, the benefit is sure to be one not soon forgotten.
The Jammin’ for Jamie Benefit will be held on Saturday, July 11. Cocktails are from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., dinner at 7 p.m. and auction at 8 p.m. Remedy will perform from 9 p.m. to midnight. Tickets are $25 per person and can be purchased at various locations including: The Cow Track, H-B Saloon, Electric Beach Salon or Century 21 M&M and Associates. Interested persons can also call to obtain tickets from Sonja Herndon at 380-2121; Saundra Goncalves at 404-3938 or Roxanne Razo at 613-2250.
As Jamie Neathery reflects back on her journey thus far, she has these words to offer:
“What has it taught me … ” she said of her diagnosis, “to be very aware. Especially living in the valley.
“You have to be aware. The hardest thing for me is having it (cancer) live in my body. But life goes on. Without doubts, without hesitation, just go for it.”