Gerry’s Journey

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WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- It's something that we will all go through, but something most people shy away from talking about.

A man in Lycoming County reached out to us hoping his story will be able to start conversations about the very intimate subject of death.

When Gerry Ayers wrote to us, we knew his story was not uncommon, but it is something many of us never talk about.

At 56 years old, Gerry has been diagnosed with stage-four colon cancer. His doctors say he may have less than a year to live

During that time, Gerry has decided on his own he wants to share this normally very private moment with us, not because he wants pity or recognition, but as a journalist himself, he hopes this will begin conversations and help remind us all that life is a gift that's worth living to its fullest.

While many of us were catching our bus to work or stressing over our schedules and to-do lists, Gerry Ayers was signing a very important document in downtown Williamsport -- a living will.

"You know that old cliché, 'live every day like it's your last day.' They aren't kidding. Your life can change in 30 seconds and you're not going to get your time back," Ayers said.

Talk with Gerry long enough and you'll learn he's a man on the move --  multiple jobs and a stroke survivor.

"I was on a roll. Everything was going right with my life. I was healthy, you know? I had regular exams, but I had never had a colonoscopy."

In the spring of 2016, without warning, Gerry began to lose weight drastically.

"I collapsed, so that's when I was admitted to Geisinger."

Never one to back down from a challenge, even now, he's facing stage-four colon cancer with that same perseverance.

"When I was told I had three years to live, I sought out other people during my treatments who were in the same boat. A lot of us had the same outlook. Of course, there were some that were really bitter. They feel they were shortchanged, that they were too young to die. If we think about it in a positive way and we think about what we can accomplish, what we can do while we are still here, then that kind of takes the burden off thinking about that death."

This week, Gerry's doctors have decided to take him off his medications. He's been given four to six months to live.

"Not that I'm writing everything off and that I want to die. I don't want to die, but I've accepted it and I'm ready for it and when you can do it, you have peace of mind and that is probably one of the greatest things you can ever have," he said.

In this most delicate, intimate time. Gerry has invited us his community to follow along with him. His wish is to open conversations about death and give the public a glimpse of hope; that life is worth living even when you know you're dying.

"If people with cancer can realize that if one thing is taken away, that there is still something left to give, that that's vital, that they can still keep giving in a certain way, that it doesn't have to be a fearful death warrant. Instead, use what you have till the very end of what you have and I think will happen for everyone involved," Gerry added.

Gerry wanted to point out that it is very important to get annual checkups and if you do have a history of cancer in your family, don't wait until there is pain to talk about it with your doctor.

Over the next few months, we hope to follow Gerry on his journey and hope to share some of those stories.

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