“Life is mostly froth and bubble, two things stand like stone. Kindness in another’s struggle, courage in your own.” Jeff Lewis first heard these words — a part of Australian poet Adam Lindsay Gordon’s work entitled “Ye Weary Wayfarer” — spoken by Princess Diana at a Washington D.C. breast cancer fundraiser in 1996. Never in his wildest dreams did he imagine how they would change his life. Twenty-one years later, in August 2017, Lewis was diagnosed with stage II prostate cancer. He opted for a nine-week radiation treatment, which left him fatigued, but feeling like he had dodged a huge bullet. He had heard the horror stories of aggressive treatments and poor outcomes. He was so grateful, in fact, he decided to do something nice for strangers every day of his treatment. He bought coffee for people behind him in line. He helped shoppers carry their groceries. The size of his kindness didn’t matter, it was simply the doing.
Then he decided to bring three dozen donuts to his treatments once a week to share with patients and staff. “I’m Jewish; bringing food to people is in my blood,” Lewis said. “As I bit into a cream-filled donut one day, the social worker I was speaking with told me one of the patients in the infusion center supplemented his meals with treats like I had brought. That hit me like a ton of bricks.”
It’s called financial toxicity, and between 30 to 50 percent of all cancer patients experience it. Insurance premiums, deductibles, out-of-pocket costs and lost wages are crippling for many patients. Often these patients are so strapped, they must choose between paying for treatment and buying groceries.
Lewis told the social worker he’d take care of that man’s groceries throughout the rest of his treatment. And just like that, Lewis launched what became the Froth and Bubble Foundation for Food Assistance, based on the sentiment of that beautiful quote. He filed his paperwork to become a nonprofit organization while still completing his own treatment.
The premise is simple. The foundation buys grocery gift cards to be distributed to patients in treatment. The hospitals, treatment centers and hospices vet the patients, as they’re more familiar with their needs. Every Monday and Tuesday, Lewis drives from one end of the Valley to the other dropping off the cards, always accompanied by a handwritten note.
The last quarter of 2017, when Froth and Bubble launched, Lewis delivered a total of 41 cards. In 2018, he delivered 1,000, totaling $75,000 in groceries. He thinks he’ll top 1,500 cards by the end of 2019.
“My only limitation is money,” Lewis said enthusiastically. “I’m perfectly happy to do the work; I just need the funds.” And while Froth and Bubble’s original mission was to give food assistance to cancer patients in Maricopa County, Lewis recently received funding for patients in Gila County. His vivacious spirit shines in both his voice and his smile. Despite being (by his own admission) a senior citizen and a cancer survivor, Lewis is never short on energy. And the payback for all his good work? “The thank you notes from patients who’ve received our gift cards bring tears to my eyes,” he said.
They’re proudly displayed on the “Kind Words” page of the Froth and Bubble website.
“I received your generous gift cards over the holidays. You changed my Christmas into a wonderful and better time.” “In this unexpected event of challenge in my health, your unexpected blessing of goodness has made my heart so happy. May your generosity be multiplied and returned to you!”
Another page of the foundation’s website, aptly called “TBFTGOG" (There But for the Grace of God), lists the touching assessments of healthcare providers who vet the card recipients.
“This patient had been living out of his truck …. He only eats one meal a day to conserve his social security funds to cover his co-pays.”
“This is the single mother with a new diagnosis of cervical cancer. She has a 12-year-old son, just lost her job and started chemo and radiation in November. She really could use your help.”
Lewis said that while he doesn’t know what the future will hold for him or the foundation, he knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is a wonderful mission he was meant to pursue. He would never admit it, but it is clear that his kindness and his courage are examples of exactly what life should be made of.