“He was my Dad. He was a brother, son, husband, friend, high school sweetheart, cousin, and grandfather. His name was and will always be Darryl Perry. …. I told you I would get your story out one day and that it would be used to help others. You still inspire me. …. Love Jay.”

(taken from My Dad Got Sick by Jay Perry)

Love, Jay.

Two very simple words: one, an action, a sentiment; the other, a name. Yet, the intensity and strength of these two words together tell a story of courage, caring, and inspiration.

In December, 2012, Darryl Perry was diagnosed with stage four cancer. Darryl is described by his son, Jay, as a quiet, humble, generous man, with a giant heart. Jay talks easily about his father being such a vital part of his life. Perhaps the most striking description of his father was echoed in these words, taken from Jay’s book “…the one thing he demonstrated time and time again, was love.… The knockout punch my dad had was love.”

When Darryl Perry found out about his cancer, Jay was 31 years old. In response to this news, Jay made the life-changing decision to stop working and be a full-time caregiver to his dad. The world Jay knew through the camera lens of a professional photographer travelling all over the globe, would change drastically. It would become a world of medical appointments, treatments, hospitals, sleeplessness, denial, anger. Yet, through all this, there was always hope. As Jay stated in his book: “sometimes hope is all you’ve got.”

While caring for his father, Jay shared his experiences through Facebook, often having friends and strangers respond. In these conversations, he found himself wanting to reach out to people who, as caregivers, found themselves in similar situations. This is where the inspiration came to write his book. He wanted to share his story and help others in their journey as caregivers. He encouraged people to reach out and be supportive of their family members and friends who were in a caregiver role.

Jay Perry has become the face of young caregivers all over the world.

Jay began writing My Dad Got Sick when his father, Darryl, was still alive. He felt that the story of Darryl’s fight with cancer, coupled with his own story of caregiving, would be of help to himself and others. Through his Facebook posts, and through his book, Jay has connected with people who are caregivers from all over the world. He states that his book “is a tool designed to help those in similar positions navigate coping, self-awareness, empathy, compassion, self-care, support, education, commitment, grief, love, and embracing the day-to-day reality of caregiving.”

Eventually, Darryl’s illness progressed to the point where he was admitted to McNally House Hospice in Grimsby. It was here that Darryl and his family experienced the attributes mentioned above. Caring for an individual at end of life and their family and friends, is where the staff and volunteers of McNally House excel. During their time at McNally House the stress of caregiving was lightened. Jay, his brother Kris, and his mother Marion were able to return to their roles of sons and wife.

Marion, Darryl’s wife for more than 40 years, speaks of McNally House as being a place of relief for caregivers, so they can “be a family”. When asked what stands out about McNally House for her, Marion is quick to respond: “caring people”. “They know what you are feeling and thinking. They take the time to get to know the resident, as well as, the family.”  Marion loved the intimate setting at McNally House in which all felt welcomed and comfortable: “It feels like home.”

Three years after Darryl died, Marion knew that she wanted provide others the caring experience she received during her time at McNally House. In February, 2019, she took the training course for volunteers at McNally House, and is now a regular volunteer. She especially enjoys engaging with residents and their families to bring comfort during difficult times.  Like Jay, she wants to share her skills, knowledge and compassion to help families and friends care for their loved ones and each other.

Marion and Jay are true examples of how one can use their own experiences and gifts to bring comfort, understanding and compassion to others. McNally House was a key element in their personal journey; it’s a place for which they are thankful.