“We’ve never been on a plane, we’ve never taken a vacation," Anjie said. “We were all really excited.”
Randy was given devastating news on his 41st birthday this past August: Doctors told him he had late-stage lung cancer and only about six months to one year to live.
Doctors found several cancerous masts and tumors on Randy’s lung and in his lymph nodes. They said it is inoperable. More tumors rapidly invaded Randy’s kidney and other parts of his body.
“I just wanted to spend as much time as I could with my family,” a tearful Randy said when he heard about his devastating fate. “They said if they opened me up, the odds of survival is very slim.”
Chemotherapy and radiation treatments began in October. A couple of months later, Randy couldn’t swallow or eat because the treatments were burning his esophagus. Drinking a glass of ice water felt like razor blades in his throat, he said.
Officials with the Johnson Family Cancer Center in Muskegon — where Randy was being treated for this cancer — wanted to help the Reynolds family with their wish to take the vacation they’ve never been able to take, and connected him to the Jack and Jill Late Stage Cancer Foundation.
“I have never had the extra money to take my family anywhere other than small places in Michigan,” Randy wrote in a letter to JAJF. “So my wife and I decided this would be really cool should we be chosen to take a trip somewhere special.”
The Atlanta, Ga.-based foundation provides children and their parents who have late-stage limited-life expectancy cancer with a dream vacation — they call it a “Wow Experience.”
“This gives them time so they can cherish those lasting moments together,” said Jon Albert, the foundation's founder and CEO. “It’s a time-out from late-stage cancer to create those memories.”
Albert’s wife died of breast cancer five years ago. She was 45.
The JAJF has raised more than $6 million in donations and received many in-kind donations from nationally recognized organizations and companies, such as the NFL, NBA and Disney, according to Albert. More than 500 families in 43 states have taken a “Wow” vacation.
Randy and Anjie Reynolds — along with their children: Makyla, 20; and Randi-Lynn, 15 — were whisked away to Los Angeles on Feb. 10. They were given a tour of the major sites of the city, received red-carpet treatment at the hotel they were staying, passes for Universal Studio and sat at the Staples Center for the Grammys in the company of some of the music world’s stars.
“To see my girls dressed up and so excited — and just to be there with my family — it was amazing,” Randy said. “To be able to put my family on a plane — it was something we would have never been able to afford to do.”
“To watch Lady Gaga walk around and joke around during commercials — it was really neat to see,” Anjie said. “It was an awesome experience for our family.”
The foundation also gave the Reynolds family a photo album to keep their fond vacation memories from fading.
Before they returned home, the Reynolds family spent time talking with some of the homeless people who line LA’s streets, even doling out their over-abundance of food and upscale restaurant certificate. That moment remains one of Randy’s favorites from the trip, he said.
“What (they) did for us has been by far the coolest thing anyone has ever done for us,” Randy said. “We will ever forget the things we did or the people who took us under their wing to show us the most awesome vacation a family could ever ask for.”
Until the cancer devastatingly takes over Randy’s life, he continues to live each day as it comes.
“I’m blessed to live a life I’ve lived with my family,” he said. “I have a beautiful family.”
For more information, visit the Jack and Jill Late Stage Cancer Foundation at www.jajf.org.