our story

The Beginning of StacheStrong

StacheStrong was launched in March of 2018 with nothing more than the story below and a goal to help others. At the core, it’s who we were in the early days of navigating GBM. A lot has happened since then; scroll down to the bottom of the page to read the latest!  

Written in March of 2018 by Colin Gerner, younger brother of GJ, and President, CEO, and Co-Founder of StacheStrong

"GJ had a seizure"

colin gerner

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

Was he dehydrated? Did he hit his head or have an accident? I mean how could this happen to my healthy brother who had texted me earlier that morning, “Woah – I turn 30 in 13 months from today!”

I Ubered home from the beach and spent the next 10 hours at the hospital with Geej going through different tests and scans. At around 11:00 PM we took an ambulance from the downtown Mount Sinai ER to the Upper East Side Mount Sinai hospital for overnight stay.

Geej and I were greeted by a member of the neurology team once we got to the hospital room and he said he was reviewing the MRI images and 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.

Now mind you, it’s almost midnight and Geej hasn’t eaten all day, so I walked in the rain to pick up some McDonalds. What a walk. I replayed the doctor’s words over and over in my head like a broken record. My mind raced, tears flowed, and I wanted to just scream. Instead, I ordered some double cheeseburgers and ice cream sundaes. We devoured our food, and I left the hospital room with a heavy heart. Sleep? No. There wasn’t much of that on this night. Late nights and early mornings would become a theme.

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 on Wednesday, September 6th. We started to tell family and close friends and I reiterated one thing: there is NOTHING wrong with Geej so please act strong in front of him even if you feel you could collapse inside. 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

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. Hell, that’s where my mind went the second I left late each night…

I had shaved my light beard down into a mustache for Labor Day weekend (Col being Col…) and when Geej came out of the bathroom the night before surgery with a fresh shaved face donning a mustache, it was a rush of emotions. He knew he wouldn’t be returning to work any time soon, so he was set to grow the meanest of mustaches.

We were in this together and it was at that moment that StacheStrong was born.

Over the first 6 months, the mustache became quite a staple, but it is truly more than a crazy mustache. It’s my Superman cape, my Captain America shield and my 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 and everything in between. #LiveStacheStrong has truly become a rallying call, but at the end of the day, it is the strength of one person that has made all the difference.

I’m happy to call the strongest human I’ve ever met in my life my big brother, my best friend and my hero. Ultimately, the past 6 months have taught us ALL a lot. As someone looking in, you have probably read all of Geej’s journal entries on his Caring Bridge site. You’ve probably also wondered how in the world is his outlook so positive. How can he post so nonchalantly and be so uplifting? Shouldn’t it be OUR job to lift HIM up?!?

Rule #1 about Geej - it's not an act…it's NEVER an act.

The kid is an absolute warrior and is always ON. Being on the inside for this, I’ve realized that in so many different fashions. It all starts with how he handled brain surgery. Quick Recap: The surgeon went into his brain and removed a tumor larger than a golf ball… If any of us get hit in the head with a golf ball we would probably be out of commission for the weekend, no question. He had one on his brain removed and was released in UNDER 3 DAYS!!!

That moment standing in the middle of the chaotic NYC street with him is something I'll never forget.

72 hours prior, I had seen him hooked up to every hose, wire and device you could imagine. Now as I lowered him into the car, donning his Mets jersey and the ‘ol “GJ Smile” to head home, he said, “Thanks for the past week, man.” I laughed it off, but I thought about it the rest of the day. Here’s a kid who just went into the complete unknown for one of the most invasive surgeries your body will ever have to endure…and he’s thanking us.