JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — In 24 years, Jim Hickey, a former US Marine, has walked 8,500 miles for different people with cancer.
His first walk was personal.
“My dad died in September of '95 of prostate cancer," said Hickey. "Had him home for the last month and actually saw my dad take his last breath. And the pain that my father went through was horrible. And then six months after that, my brother was diagnosed with prostate cancer at 41.”
Hickey's brother survived after a successful surgery, but in the six months before his surgery, Hickey started walking to raise awareness for cancer, and the harsh reality that cancer in America is not affordable.
The person Hickey walks for this year is a 21-year-old electrician in Northern Colorado named Justin Smithey.
Life for Smithey since September has included multiple seizures a day.
“It was mind boggling, life changing," Smithey said. "You know, never would I have thought one day I would just wake up and be told you have brain cancer. But you know anything can happen in life. And that’s just what life is.”
Smithey said he was told by doctors at UCHealth Greeley that his brain tumor is inoperable. He's had radiation, and said the treatment options in Colorado are slim.
His family found hope in the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, where they said doctors successfully treated a woman with diffuse midline glioma, the same diagnosis as Smithey.
Unfortunately, his mom said his insurance claim was denied, and it will cost them $5,000 just to get in the door and see a doctor to talk about a plan Tuesday.
"It seriously is not cheap at all to get told you have cancer," said Smithey.
Hickey said he hopes his walk helps Smithey raise money through his GoFundMe. Not only will the money help cover medical costs, but it also helps Smithey with hotel costs in Jacksonville.
“I’ve just never met anybody who’s like, 'I don’t want anything out of this but to spread your story and walk for you,'" said Smithey. "I’ve never met anybody like that.”
Smithey said he hopes getting his story out there will also help him find someone with the same diagnosis, since it can be lonely going through brain cancer with no one who understands.
His email is SmitheyGuy47@gmail.com.
“I know that if there’s someone out there and I have the ability to raise awareness by going out there and walking for them, by not doing it I feel like I’m being selfish," said Hickey.