StacheStrong and the V Foundation

StacheStrong President, CEO and Co-Founder Colin Gerner shared his story – his brother’s fight with brain cancer, the founding of StacheStrong, and recent partnership with the V Foundation for Cancer Research.

“GJ had a seizure”

Those were the words spoken to me on September 2nd, 2017 of Labor Day Weekend when I received a call that made no sense to me at the time from one of my older brother’s best friends. My mind raced.

I rushed home and spent the next 10 hours at the hospital with Geej going through different tests and scans. Late that night, we were moved to a different hospital for an overnight stay.

We were greeted by a member of the neurology team once we got to the hospital room, who was reviewing MRI images and said he would have more to report on in the morning, but I could tell there was more he wanted to say…

This is when everything changed.

I followed the doctor into the hallway, and it was no longer a question – he told me they had found a large brain tumor. Calling my parents and younger sister to share this news was the most gut wrenching moment. Our family rushed to NYC and the next 4 days felt like a year, yet a blink of an eye at the same time. Geej was scheduled to undergo brain surgery to remove the mass and we started to tell family and close friends, where I reiterated one thing: there is NOTHING wrong with Geej, so please act strong in front of him. Yes, he was in the hospital preparing for a very serious and invasive surgery, yet he was GEEJ. He wasn’t in pain, and he certainly didn’t want you feeling bad for him. It’s not who he was.

Our daily schedules between meetings and tests with different specialist were spent playing scrabble, watching baseball, walking throughout the hospital and whatever else could make the hands on the clock move a bit faster. I wanted to be with him every second of the day because I felt that if I wasn’t, it allowed for more idle time spent pondering the upcoming possibilities. Heck, that’s where my mind went the second I left late each night…

Geej came out of the bathroom the night before surgery with a fresh shaved face donning a mustache to keep the mood light since he knew he wouldn’t be returning to work any time soon. My dad and I followed suite, and it was at that moment that StacheStrong was organically born – we had no idea what this simple gesture would evolve into.

Over the first 6 months, the mustache became quite a staple, but it was truly more than a crazy mustache. It was our Superman cape, the Captain America shield and Thor hammer all in one. It protected us through a successful brain surgery, the news of cancer in the form of grade 4 glioblastoma, the first round of chemotherapy and radiation, 5 additional rounds of max dosage chemo, Optune array treatment, a recurrence, more surgery, more chemo, more radiation, etc. #LiveStacheStrong truly become a rallying call, but at the end of the day, it was the strength and character of my brother that made all the difference.

GJ’s Impact through StacheStrong

I still remember submitting the documents to incorporate StacheStrong as a 501(c)3 with GJ in 2018 with no clue what we were doing. All that mattered was that we were going to flip the script on this disease and help others in any way we could – together.

Sadly, he passed away on September 17, 2019, after a 25-month battle, but I know he’d be so proud of what StacheStrong has done in his honor. I’d gladly trade it all for another day with him, but I know we must push forward in support of the next set of brothers faced with the same diagnosis.

In 6 years, we’ve funded over $4 million of brain cancer research, including 40+ grants at 25+ institutions across the country. We’ve provided a platform for thousands as we’ve continued to inspire and provide hope. It all started with my brother keeping the mood light by going into brain surgery with a fresh mustache. Something so simple is changing lives EVERY day. That’s who GJ was – and continues to be – through StacheStrong.

Reaching six years as an organization is 3x longer than GJ lived with GBM, which almost seems impossible. We’ve been running full speed ahead since starting StacheStrong and have far exceeded anyone’s wildest expectations along the way.

I hope you never have to face what he did and that you never feel the same pain and loss that I have, but that’s at the core of why I continue pressing the issue. One day, I hope a set of brothers have an answer and a viable treatment through the collaborative efforts of all those fighting for change. That’s how GJ fought – and continues to fight – through StacheStrong.

Jim and GJ’s Legacies, Together

Geej and Jim Valvano shared a lot of similarities – none more than being in the middle of their own cancer journeys and having the desire to help others. They saw the importance of and need for game-changing research. They serve as inspirations and have created strong communities built on sponsoring cancer research that would save lives in the future. My brother even idolized Jim Valvano growing up and wore a “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up” wristband 15+ years before he himself was diagnosed with cancer. That’s why I’m thrilled to see StacheStrong partner with the V Foundation for Cancer Research.

The shared goal of these foundations is to fund vital cancer research that leads to new treatments and breakthroughs, providing hope for patients and their families now and in the future. Simply, it’s achieving Victory Over Cancer®.

I’m thrilled to announce that StacheStrong and the V Foundation are co-funding game-changing research. Together, we’ll fund the first year of a translational grant for Xiao-Nan Li, M.D., Ph.D., through the Dick Vitale Pediatric Cancer Research Fund. Dr. Li and his team at Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center at Northwestern University are dedicated to seeking a better understanding of cellular responses to extensive clinical treatments with the ultimate goal of developing new cures for children with high grade gliomas.

The V Foundation funds the best and brightest researchers in the country, like Dr. Li, and through its selection process via the Scientific Advisory Committee, I felt that StacheStrong could do impactful work by partnering with the V Foundation.

I can’t wait to see the important work this grant, in addition to any future funding, does for childhood cancer patients. The impact will be incredible.

Geej would be proud.

Colin Gerner
President, CEO and Co-Founder of StacheStrong

Mailing List Mailing List
Close Mailing List