From Tears to Laughter: Julie Fry's Epic Tale of Business, Resilience, and Beating Cancer!

Laughing in the rain

The Stories

Watch Out Griswald's, the Fry's Are the Next International Travel Experts

We just touched down from our escapades across France and London and the Griswalds’ European Vacation seems like a leisurely stroll in comparison. Our secret? We thrive on chaos! While others might see travel as a chance to kick back and relax, we treat it like an extreme sport and make the best of any circumstance. This trip did not disappoint.

We learned our travel skills from the movie, “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium”. For us, travel is not some leisurely respite filled with afternoon siestas and long days on the beach. If we had a family anthem, it would be, “Challenge accepted.” Six countries in eight days – done. London in one day – no problem. Seven hours in a car followed by dinner and evening plans – why not?

But, when things do come up – and they do – we have to be willing to call an audible and change plans on the fly. That happened to us on our last trip. First, our adventure started with a full-day delay getting out of Boston due to plane issues. So, instead of a car tour of Paris followed by an afternoon at the Lourve and fancy dinner, we punted. We rescheduled the van, changed the Lourve tickets, explained to our friends who flew in Vienna that they’d have to enjoy Paris on their own, and rescheduled the dog sitter.

We arrived in Paris to our new driver and his luxury van, grabbed our luggage, and headed to the hotel. We had the most amazing dinner filled with course after course of a five-star tasting menu. Around course four, Liam (my 12-year-old nephew) faded and had to go back to the hotel to sleep. But, we carried on with French toast with sardine sauce, blood sausage with apples and apple peel powder, melt-in-your-mouth veal, meringues and a log filled with tiny, scrumptious desserts. We shared stories of watching “The Bear” with the chefs after dinner as it felt like we were living out the Michelin star experience. 

The next morning, we took on the challenge of Paris in a day. Our friends, Sabine and Michael, were great sports and met us for dinner and a tour. An hour of waiting and our tour still hadn’t shown up. So, we all jumped into action. Calls were made, websites consulted, concierges engaged. Within 30 minutes, Renee managed to talk to our driver from the airport who was to bring the luxury van and pick us up and the six of us on an all-day tour. Unfortunately, something got lost in translation and instead, his buddy (who spoke no English) showed up for a station wagon. It was cold and pouring, so we all piled in the car and headed to Montmartre. Ten minutes in and poor Michael was getting leg cramps and we couldn’t see out the windows as we had some many large bodies squeezed in such a little place.

We left our friends at the beautiful white church as they smartly opted for public transportation to a restaurant they wanted to try before flying back to Vienna. Meanwhile, the four of us piled back in the car and used Google translate to direct our driver as to where to go. 

Our driver was so proud of himself to take us right by things like the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Arc de Triomphe, or the Musée de l’Orangerie. He would drive us past a landmark, pull over and ask if we wanted to get out and take pictures. Without hesitation, we’d all answer, “No, drive on.” It was way too cold and rainy and we were way too jetlagged to enjoy it. A few of the passengers may have been asleep for a majority of the tour.

We finished the driving tour and hopped out at the Louvre, which was amazing. When we got there, my handicap parking permit let us bypass all the lines and allowed me to borrow a wheelchair. Liam may be my favorite travel partner ever. He pushed me through the entire Louvre like he was training as a Paris Olympic speed walker. From the Ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians to the Islamic and Renaissance masters, we made through the world’s largest museum like we were being chased by Winged Victory. Plus, when you’re in a wheelchair wearing a mask announcing, “Pardon us, excuse me!” it’s amazing how many people will get out of the way.

The staff at the Louvre was amazing and even let Liam and Renee push me right past the crowds and in front of the Mona Lisa. Next up, a boat tour of the Siene, the Eiffel Tower and dinner in a café. Thank you to the nice French people who helped Renee get help as she was getting so frustrated by the others viewing the Mona Lisa that she was about to go all American on them and get me to the front, no holds barred.

We had planned on renting an electric van, but Ryan (my brother-in-law) upgraded us to a massive gas-powered van. (When I write massive, I mean massive.) On the way out of town, Liam got to be the DJ and chose the US National Anthem. Ever the die-hard Americans, we left Paris behind with our hands on our hearts busting out the National Anthem for all to hear.

Seven hours later, we arrived in Lourdes, France. We sat down to dinner and the woman next to us had a flaming pizza. Oh yeah, I needed that. You could tell we were not in the US because it arrived with a two-foot flame. It may have tasted a little bit like kerosene, but it was totally worth it. Until that night that is.

We stayed at a fabulous hotel that overlooked the Lourdes Chapel. They had a 40EU breakfast, 150EU manicure, and 95EU soap. They didn’t have a single coupon, so we forwent those luxuries. Other than that, it was the perfect hotel. It was the perfect hotel; which was great as I got super sick that night and didn’t leave my bed except to head to the bathroom for three days.

I was so thankful I had Gentreo! Before I left, I had updated my digital vault with my latest medical information and a copy of my international health insurance card. I’m doing active cancer treatment and on a good day am dehydrated. Two days in and I reached out to my doctors who gave me one day to get better or get to experience the French hospital system. 72 Hours later and I was able to leave the hotel and visit Lourdes.

Gentreo ad part – If you are traveling, you need Gentreo as without it, I wouldn’t have been able just to click to be able to share my medications, doctors information and more. Nothing like being in a country where you can’t speak the language and need to explain everything.

Thankfully, we rented a double scooter to take us around Lourdes. Once I could make it upright, Liam became my driver and off we zoomed. If you ever have the opportunity to visit Lourdes, do it! It was stunningly beautiful and a transcendent experience. 

Mary appeared to St. Bernadette and told her to dig in the ground and soon a spring appeared. The waters have been proven to provide miracles and millions flock there for healing and blessings. While we were there, we had the opportunity to go to confession, attend Mass, light candles, pray for our own healing and those of our friends and loved ones. Plus, we washed ourselves in the waters, immersed religious medals in the waters and collected gallons to bring back with us. It was one of the most moving experiences of my life.

Lourdes Card1
Lourdes Card

Unfortunately, just as I was getting better Ryan got sick and was out for the count for two days as well. He was so sick, he even let me drive back to Paris. On the way, we took a few hours to stop by the wine museum in Bordeaux. It was at least one thing we could check off our list as we had to cancel things like Versailles and staying in a hotel in a cave as we were getting sick and didn’t get to leave the hotel.

On the way home, we had a day layover and did all of London in a day. From the changing of the guard and the London Eye to the best Turkish meal I’ve had and a drive over the London Bridge and through the landmarks, we accomplished more in one day than most people do in a week. We arrived back in the US happy to be home to a dog that was so happy to see us, she went to the bathroom all over herself and ran throughout the house getting poop everywhere.

So, after changing her three beds, washing rugs, mopping, and disinfecting, we finally got to take a vacation from our vacation. That weekend, we all stayed in our PJ’s and spent $4 to rent the movie European vacation. While it was hysterical, I’m sure that we had more fun and made more memories on our real-life adventure than the Griswald’s ever had. Our journey? Now that’s comedy gold.

Living Gentreo

Renee and Julie Fry

A few years ago, I took a cue from the Hair Club for Men and I became a user of Gentreo. Within 20 minutes, I had my Will, Health Care Proxy, and Power of Attorney for Finances. Like many Generation Xers, I had seen others going through life events but other than caring for my parents, I hadn’t gone through any myself.

I’ve always been one that believes in ‘pulling the plug’. When we were kids, we had a dog that if any of the other dogs slipped and fell or showed weakness, he would pounce on them and go after them. I always warned my family that I learned that tactic from him. If you go down, I’m pulling the plug. So, when I filled out my own health care wishes, I told my family to pull my plug full stop.

Then, life snuck up on me and all of a sudden, I was changing my Health Care Proxy to dial it back a bit. Instead of pulling the plug, I had a heart-to-heart conversation with my sister and entrusted her to make that decision for me at the time. But, I don’t want to lay the full burden of that decision on her. So, I made sure to tell her that if anything ever does happen to me that if there is any doubt, I don’t want to live life incapacitated or relying life support. Thankfully, part of the beauty of Gentreo is that I could easily and quickly go in and update my choices as part of my membership.

We got started with Gentreo because we helped our parents do estate planning – which cost them $10,000. This, for a service that everyone needs. But thankfully, our parents were always pragmatic and excellent planners. We went through their choices years before our father started suffering from Alzheimer’s. What a blessing that was because the final years of his life were hard – on him and on our mom. Towards the very end, he lost many of his abilities to live an independent life, like showering and toileting, walking, and even talking. Even if he couldn’t speak words, he always knew how to express himself. In the mornings after breakfast, we’d push him in front of the patio door so he could watch for the deer that would visit the back yard. He happily made noises until he got our attention so that we too could watch the deer or run out and offer them apples. Plus, if he didn’t want to do something he knew how to make sure we understood that.

The last week of his life he came down with pneumonia and wasn’t able to communicate. Thankfully, when the time came in the hospital and they asked us what type of treatment to give him, we already knew because he had told us what he wanted years before that horrible day. It changed the narrative so that instead of us having to choose just to offer pain relief, a horrible, gut-wrenching decision, he had already made that call for us. It was one of the final gifts he gave us. Thanks to his forethought and planning, no one in our family, especially our mom, ever had to live with making that call.

Wayne Fry
Homeschool during covid

Years before I got diagnosed again with cancer, I made my own healthcare decisions based off my experiences. But my perspective changed when I started looking at the real and possible effects of chemo, or hormone therapy, or the study that I’m on now. No longer did I cavalierly tell everyone to pull the plug. Instead, I have been the recipient of some miraculous medical advancements and I want to make sure that if they can save me, I’m giving them the possibility of doing so.

During covid, we hid out at our parents’ house in central Pennsylvania (right by Penn State) to help care for our father as he battled Alzheimer’s. Plus, our mother was an amazing teacher for over 30 years, so she helped home school Liam. We grew up in farm country, Illinois where we learned to drive on private land when we were 10. So, while we were in PA, I would teach Liam the basics of driving my car around mom and dad’s driveway and block.

Julie Fry and Liam Hawker
Renee Fry and Ryan Hawker

Fast forward a few years to when I went in for a CT scan. Renee and Ryan had just left for a weekend at a friend’s wedding in California, so it was just Liam and I at home. An hour after my scan, I got a call that I had a massive blood clot in my lung and that I had to go back to the hospital immediately. I called up Liam and gave him the news to which he replied, “I’ll get the keys”. I asked for what and he said, “I’m ready, I’m driving you to the hospital.”

Although it was an awesome offer, I had to break it to him that Quincy, MA is a lot different than central Pennsylvania and I wasn’t going to let him drive me through Boston traffic at ten years old. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m thrifty. So, I called and left a message for Renee and Ryan and drove myself. When I got to the hospital, the valet line was really long. Plus, you know you have to pay to tip them, right? So, I parked down the block and walked in. It wasn’t until I saw the emergency room workers were waiting with a wheelchair and a red folder that I realized this might just be a bit more serious than I thought.

Renee and Ryan landed in LA to my message and immediately booked the next flight back to Boston. It was the most expensive slice of airport pizza that I’ve ever heard of. Thankfully, they made it back that same day, followed shortly by my mother who flew in from Illinois. It was a really scary time, but thanks to my amazing medical team, I made it through with only a few more gray hairs to show for it. Thankfully, I had already changed my Health Care Proxy which reflected my new medical directives.

If something did happen, the conversations that I had already had with my family would have made their decisions so much easier – because they were my decisions. Plus, they had the legal documents to take the actions they needed. I’m already giving my family enough stress, having made my medical decisions myself helps take one thing off their plate in incredibly trying times.

If you don’t have your Health Care Proxy done yet, please, please do so. If you haven’t discussed what you want to happen – if it’s pulling the plug or giving that decision to someone else, please do so. Create your documents. Discuss your decisions. Store and share them in your Gentreo Digital Vault so everyone knows where to turn in the event of an emergency. Life happens and being prepared helps you ease at least one burden from your family. While I hope they won’t need it for many, many years, preparing and organizing my family for emergencies is truly one of the best gifts I can give them.

Google Women's Leadership

Yes We Can!

I went to a women’s leadership forum yesterday and was reminded how strong women entrepreneurs need to be.

Here some sobering statistics according to the Harvard Kennedy School (here’s the full link):

Data and research prove that there is a significant gender gap in venture capital funding.

  • Even though women are underrepresented as entrepreneurs to begin with, they receive a disproportionately small share of VC funding: 2.3% for all-female founding teams and 10%.4 for mixed-gender founding teams.
  • These numbers have stagnated in the last three decades, as the 30-year average of all-female founders’ share of VC funding is 2.4%.
  • Generally, female founders receive approximately a quarter of the amount of funding they seek, while their male counterparts receive half, on average.
  • Women are also underrepresented as participants in VC deals with only 5.9% of U.S. deals involving all-female founding teams or solo female founders and 15.2% involving mixed-gender founding teams.
  • Despite all of these disadvantages, female-founded ventures perform as well as male-founded ones, controlling for relevant variables like sector, market, experience, and hours worked.

Every day I wake up and make a decision to be an optimist. It’s hard when you feel crappy, have a to-do list four pages long, and constantly have to fight an uphill battle selling, fundraising, and growing/managing your team. But, it’s so much easier when you are 100% committed to what you do and know that you and your team and building a solution for a major problem with tools that just hadn’t existed before you created them.

My team and I are committed and would do what it takes to build this. In fact, a couple of years ago when we first started raising money, I was invited to attend a VC boondoggle at a ski resort in Salt Lake City, UT. It was going to be a weekend of hard-core networking, skiing, and partying. Only problem, I don’t downhill ski and understand physics. I was pretty sure I was going to die. But, if that’s what it took to get money, sign me up. I bought a set of snow gear and headed west. I showed up and got the last rental car they had – a minivan.

When I got there, I had to sign a waiver clearing them of any fault as the skiing was so intense someone had broken their neck the previous year. Plus, good news – they were able to get Olympic Gold-Medalist Picabo Street to give us private mogul lessons. Outstanding considering I had never even worn a pair of downhill skis before.

Off I went, armed with sheer determination and hutzpah. When I got there, God was watching out for me. Turns out there was a massive blizzard that closed the entire mountain. So, instead of barreling down the mountain, I ended up loading attendees into my mom-mobile and driving us all around from bar to bar. Once I had them captive, my first question would be, “Do you have your will done?” and then tell them about Gentreo. Who’s the player now??? It was an incredible event yet only about 5% of those who attended were women. But, showing up was only half the battle, working that conference was the rest.

I walked out of that weekend with an impressive rolodex, investments in Gentreo, and thankfully a story to tell that did not end up with me in full traction. It takes an incredible belief and commitment to lead a company. Entrepreneurs have to look disappointment in the face and keep coming back stronger. Plus, add on to that the incredible odds women and minority entrepreneurs face and it can be daunting. But, it’s those odds that make you want to work better, fight harder, and change the playing field.

Holiday Caroling
Thanksgiving Table

The Perfect Holiday

This Thanksgiving, we had a perfect holiday weekend. My brother-in-law rented an amazing house in Stowe, Vermont so we could live out our real-life Hallmark Christmas movie dreams. Was it really perfect? Of course not, but you need to decide that it was perfect. For me, it’s all about focusing on the good.

Stowe, VT may actually be the closest town I’ve ever seen to a real-life movie set. From the quaint little grocery store (read adorable but three times the prices at home) to the tiny town hall covered in lights, it was a dream come true. One of my favorite movies is the Sound of Music, which was based on the true story of the Von Trapp family. After immigrating to America, they eventually settled in Stowe and opened a beautiful hotel. We wandered in to visit and live our movie-set dreams. Talk about a happy accident—it just so happened to be their tree lighting ceremony where they brought out an elaborate hot chocolate and Christmas cookie station. We celebrated with a toast from one of the Von Trapp grandchildren in front of a roaring fire and joined others for a Christmas sing-along. The kids loved the hot chocolate as they played chess in the library.

It was the perfect substitute for my grand plan to find my perfect Hallmark husband. I thought I had a sure-fire way to find a perfect ending. First, I went to the dollar store and bought light up Christmas headbands, necklaces, and accessories. Next, I got a box of mini candy canes to hand out as we walked about the town center randomly breaking out into carols convincing all the other tourists to join us. Then, when I had their attention, I was going to “Love Actually” them and hold up cue cards that said:  “I’m hoping for my perfect holiday romance.” “I’m willing to date Veterinarians, First-Aid Workers, Veterans, Single Fathers Who Need To Teach Their Children About The Spirit Of Christmas.” “Just a warning, I do not have Botox, fillers, a wig, nor a Canadian accent.” Surprisingly, no one else would join me in my quest. But, the Von Trapp Lodge was a pretty close second.

Life is damn-near perfect if you concentrate on what went right. Did I feel exhausted from cancer treatments the whole weekend? Yes. Did my car’s electronics go haywire which is going to cost a pretty penny; why yes, it did. Did I accidentally fall asleep while watching football, one of my favorite things to do? Yes. Did we need to work an entire day until after 1 in the morning instead of spreading holiday cheer? Happy Thanksgiving, pass me the power cord, yes we did.

One of my friends once asked me how I can remain so doggedly optimistic in the face of everything we go through. Being an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart. It’s a lot of hard work no matter if you’re celebrating the holidays with your family or back at the office the next day. But, we’re really fortunate because we sell a product that we are wildly passionate about that we really believe could help change people’s lives. Estate planning is something that isn’t fun and sexy to sell. It’s something everyone knows that they need, but need to be reminded to do. Do we concentrate on those that haven’t done their estate plan? No, we look forward to building a solution that makes protecting your family something that’s easy, affordable, and attainable for everyone.

Designer Purse Bingo

Last weekend, we helped host one of my favorite events of the year. This isn’t your grandma’s bingo – it’s designer purse bingo, and it’s a hoot! The best part? It’s all for a good cause, supporting our church’s work with the homeless and the community. Hosting this event is like planning a wedding but on an annual basis. Without the marriage part, of course.

During chemo, when I didn’t feel well, I would shop online from my bed for designer purses. I’d spend hours poring over different purses, coupons, discounts, and super sales. It was a great distraction, especially because I knew that I’d be using them for on our purse bingo events. We started planning three months ago and started off with a nice collection of purses that our family was going to donate – which helped with the amount of donations we would have to get later.

Now, planning designer purse bingo is a bit like planning a wedding every year. The event prep includes months of chasing down great purses, gathering donations for raffles, games, and, my personal favorite, the live auction. This year, we hosted it at a new church, which meant fewer helping hands, but we still managed to snag donations worth hundreds of dollars like L’Occitaine goodies, top-shelf booze, sports-themed baskets, and even high-end candles and soaps. My mom and aunt even chipped in, shipping us a chocolate basket and gluten-free cookies. Family love, am I right?

The fun didn’t stop at planning and donations. We went all out with signs, games, and even little chocolate origami purses. I love a busy placemat, so I designed one to keep players entertained for two hours. And what’s a wedding without wedding favors, right? Well, our bingo guests got Lindt chocolates, L’Occitaine samples, coupons for Gentreo (our company), markers for playing, and cute little chocolate purses. Plus, I hand made adorable center pieces complete with balls that spelled out B-I-N-G-O and held table and reserved seat cards. It’s all about those thoughtful touches.

My superhero friend, Julie, flew in from Illinois, and boy, did we put her to work. She crafted 200 origami purses and pitched in with setting up the hall, running the registration table, and handling the money. She probably thought she was in for a relaxing weekend with friends, but little did she know she’d be working her butt off. That’s what friends are for, right?

Typically, my brother-in-law Ryan and I are the event hosts, but he was out of town, so my sister Renee and nephew Liam stepped up to the plate. By the end of the night, I’m usually pretty drained from my ongoing cancer treatments so as usual, Renee stepped in. Renee was a real MVP, juggling multiple roles, managing volunteers, and solving problems (like when the microphone decided to take a break). As for Liam, that kid’s got courage! He dressed in Ryan’s sparkly coat and top hat, called out bingo numbers, modeled purses, ran games, and even helped host the event. Not many kids his age can say they’ve hosted an event in front of 175 adults.

Our friends also rallied to the cause. Vic, our buddy, ended up calling bingo numbers with Liam and helping out with card checks. But we also drafted him to sell extra bingo cards and work the crowd. Fr. Joe, another friend of ours whose church it is, might be one of the best hosts and public speakers you’ll ever come across, both on and off the altar. He and some church volunteers jumped in to make the event nothing short of spectacular.

Now, the bingo is just part of the fun. In addition to the ten bingo games where people could win designer purses, we had raffle baskets, a wine pull, a nail polish pull, a live auction, and three intermission games. The intermission games were not only fantastic for breaking up the evening but also for getting the crowd involved, with everyone shouting out prices like a bunch of Price Is Right contestants. My favorite game of the night was “Share or Steal,” which was created and managed by Liam. Two people were called up and given the chance to either share two gift cards or have one of them steal and take both. Thankfully, it all went according to plan, and the gentleman decided to steal (there was a priest nearby to offer confession later). But the real winner was the lady who passed up the offer as we gave her a Michael Kors purse as a prize.

We received fantastic feedback after the event, with people asking how long I’ve been a professional bingo host. Umm, I’m not, but do you have a will? Even better, many folks offered to help in the future. The church raised a tidy sum of money, and we shared a night of fun with all those who attended. Most importantly, all the funds will go to support the church in its mission to help the community. It’s a win-win.

Now, it’s time for me to recover. It was a long day, and I ended up feeling under the weather, but things are looking up. It’s been two years since I had a cold or was sick, and thankfully, they think this is just viral. As they say, no good deed goes unpunished. But hey, it was totally worth it!

New England Patriots Crucial Catch

Thank God for Life Perspective

Sometimes, life throws you a curveball, and in my case, it was a football-sized one! Last week, I won the jackpot – I got picked by my medical team and the New England Patriots to be part of the NFL’s Crucial Catch program.

I am a diehard Penn State football fan. I love NFL teams, but never can truly root for one exclusively because then I’d be rooting against other Penn Staters. That being said, I moved out to New England over ten years ago and it was easy to root for the Patriots with the likes of Tom Brady, Gronk and Julian Edelman. It was great watching them for the eye candy alone. I was really excited when they brought Bill O’Brien back from the college ranks to return as their offensive coordinator. However, this season felt like a comedy of errors. It might not be as bad as their 1990 season (1-15, yikes!), but it’s been a real punchline. Still, life has taught me that even when the jokes are bad, things can get better. Did I ask for cancer? Definitely not. But have there been some silver linings? You bet!

The adventure began when I got a call from the New England Patriots’ foundation office. Imagine that, a call from the Patriots, right? On the other end was Andre Tippett, one of the Patriot’s best players of all time. He played in the 80’s when the Patriots weren’t great, but he was. He was inducted into the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame and is a favorite of any long-time diehard Patriot’s fan.  He invited me to a day of pampering, and it was awesome hearing this tough guy talking about making candles, jewelry, and getting manicures.

Turns out, my remarkable medical team at Mass General Hospital Dana Farber Cancer Center nominated me for the NFL’s Crucial Catch program. As a diehard football fan, this was the touchdown of a lifetime. Plus, it felt like a great honor to represent all the patients they see. I was also thrilled to bring my nephew, who’s a budding football star, along for the fun. He’s my number one fan, and I knew he’d be as excited as I was.

The day was all about me, but it was a chance to share the fun with my family, who’ve been with me from day one. Since we’re all football fans, it was a fantastic way to say thanks.

I had such a wonderful time that my checks actually hurt from smiling all day long. Talk about first class all the way, I was picked up by a car service and had a chance to meet another cancer warrior and Sean, our driver. I love what I do, so I had the chance to interview our driver, Sean, about his estate planning. Trust me, I’m living through why estate planning is so incredibly important, and I take every opportunity to help others prepare. OK, almost everyone. Not even I would talk about estate planning with stage 4 cancer patients – staff and everyone else, yes.

When we got there, I got the opportunity to meet other women who are going through many of the same things I am. Instead of people looking at me with shock in their eyes, these women all had their own stories, and we could move on from the surprise and fear and start talking about what really matters. From families, funny stories, logistics, challenges, to celebrations, it was such a breath of fresh air to meet others who were going through the same battles, laugh alongside them, and find ways to help.

The Gifts Just Keep Coming

During the day of pampering, we got to meet not only the amazing staff of the Patriots, but dozens of volunteers whose entire goal for the day was to help make our day a huge success. These are my people. For me, helping others feeds my soul. When I ask, “what can I do to help you?” I mean it. While I was there, I found another woman whose child goes to the same school as my nephew.

She reached out to the school and didn’t get as much help as needed, so I was on it. When I got home, I enlisted Renee to help find a solution. Renee likes to say that I’m so generous that I’ll give you the shirt off of her back—which is true. Renee and I both knew we could find a way to help. The next day, Renee went to a coffee at the school for parents and met some of the administrators there. When she brought up the situation, they said they had heard about it, and were talking about it. Renee’s instant response was that “the time for talking is over. Now’s the time for doing. How are we going to help her?” Within a day, she sent out emails and connected the mother with help from the school. A week later, we got a wonderful note back from her saying that the school is going to help her and her son.

It’s amazing to be a part of something that turns a small conversation into someone getting actual help in a time of need.

The Day of Me

My day of pampering was so amazing, but it almost felt unreal. We started with a breakfast on the VIP level. When we sat down, we were treated to Patriots cookies and hand-blown glasses from Gather Glass. After breakfast, we got to meet Andre Tippett who shared how passionate the organization is about supporting the Crucial Catch. Then, he walked around and met with all of us with a huge hug and smile.

  • Candles – Heather and Dave Chabot from Boston Wick Co had tables set up so we could make our own personalized candles. It was perfect because we could talk to people all while crafting. The apple cider donut candle I made is sitting here at my desk and smells amazing!
  • Massages – some of the women enjoyed massages, but I passed. I hate when other people touch me (hugs are not my favorite). The only thing worse than someone else touching me is PAYING someone else to touch me. Hard to imagine that I’m still single…
  • Manicures – That was amazing! While I passed on the hand massage, I did get the most amazing manicure that even came with little Patriots stickers on a couple of my nails. My cancer treatments cause anemia which causes my nails to be really brittle. I look at them and they seem to break. I’ve tried tons of nail strengthener and supplements, but not much worked. But the manicure made my nails look great.
  • Facials – The Dream Spa Medical team gave me an incredible facial. It was called an oxygen facial and while I had no idea what it entailed; it made my face feel great.
  • Jewelry making – Natalie Shay, who runs BeadCache, helped us all design our own tailor-made bracelets. It was perfect because I could use the Patriots colors as well as create a piece that fit my wrist perfectly.

I rarely sit down to relax so this was a day of pure joy. I felt good that day and it gelt great to be so cared for.

Guests and an Invitation

Next up, we had lunch with special guests joining us. First up were two of the current players who gave up time on their day off to come meet us. Sean Wade, who went to Ohio State, was such a gentleman. The poor guy, I’m pretty sure he was slightly afraid to talk to all of us. Who wouldn’t be intimidated by a room full of boisterous, laughing, middle aged women that you knew were all staring death in the face? Sean was so nice, going around, wishing all of us the best, and taking pictures with a huge smile on his face. He was so polite and gentle with all of us. I preferred the ‘hit him hard about Ohio State’ tact. I tried to joke with him, and it took a few minutes before he broke down his walls and started joking around with me. He shared stories about living in New England and how he was excited to share all the fun things to do with his wife and child.

David Andrews, one of the Patriots’ veteran captains, also came to share stories and laughs with us. It’s so great to get to talk to someone we see on the television and find out that they live the same lives we do. He was off to the YMCA with his son that day. We all were really touched that the players came in on their day off to help make the day even more special for us.

Bob Kraft, the owner of the Patriots, joined us and shared his commitment to end cancer in honor of his first wife, Mayra. It’s nice to see someone who puts their time, effort, and resources to support a cause that they are passionate about. He took time to take photos, he signed a ball for my nephew (a rare feat) and invited us all to Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints. Then, his staff presented us all with the ultimate swag bags from the foundation. They gave me a personalized Patriots jersey with my name on the back. Plus, we got hats, a ball, magazines, another bracelet, mugs, and more. When I got home, Renee, Ryan, Liam, and I opened up the gym bag and shared the bounty.

I also donated some to my church’s Designer Purse Bingo that I am running, but that’s another story….

Game Day

As a part of the celebration, the Patriots invited us to join them as their guests on gameday to see the Patriots take on the New Orleans Saints. I was thrilled because I was able to bring Liam, Renee, and Ryan. Best of all, Liam got to be my special guest and was able to join me in the Bud Light pre-tailgate party and get autographs, meet my new friends, and enjoy the buffet. He was REALLY excited that they had a full open bar, which to him meant one thing – Roy Rogers (diet coke, cherry juice, and cherries). It’s so hilarious to see a 12-year-old lined up in line with all the other middle-aged drinkers. Then, we found out that we were going to get to go on the field!

Liam and I joined the rest of the cancer warriors as we walked into the stadium as the players were warming up. It’s amazing how huge these guys are in person! After lots and lots of pictures, live skype videoing with our Mom, and finding Renee and Ryan in their seats, we were off to join the cheerleaders in the tunnel. Even though my pom poms were Notre Dame colors, it was amazing! We stood there waving away, with huge smiles on our faces. Talk about amazing!!

While the game wasn’t much fun as the Patriots got clobbered, we got to go back down on the field with even more cancer warriors during half time. It was amazing. By the time I got back to my seat, three of my friends sent me pictures of me on the field in my jersey when they saw me during the game. Even though it was just maybe 5 seconds, I think I might be famous now.

What an amazing week that was and something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Even better, it gave me the opportunity to help others – which really does make me happy to my core. Even though the Patriots are having a horrible year, life perspective has taught me that it’s more than just a game, it’s a memory I’ll cherish forever. Thank you to the New England Patriots team (Dani, Donna, and all who make it possible). Thank you Bob Kraft for your undying commitment to supporting a cause that’s dear to your heart. Thank you NFL for supporting the Crucial Catch program which helped save others from going through what the 15 of us are going through now. While it was an unforgettable day, it’s a day I hope nobody ever has to be a part of.

On the field

It's a Journey

I consider myself one lucky individual. I’ve got an incredible support system in the form of family and friends, founded a company that brings me boundless joy, and possess an attitude that can weather any storm—oh, and did I mention, I’ve got cancer? Yup, stage four endometrial cancer has been my uninvited companion for nearly two years now. But you know what? It doesn’t define me.

Julie Fry

I am

  • A comedian at heart
  • Smarter than a dictionary on steroids
  • Devoted to the people I love
  • So positive that I could convince a lemon it’s a lime
  • Always ready to give a helping hand
  • As driven as a squirrel on an energy drink
  • A die-hard Penn Stater
  • Humble (or maybe not, but I’m owning it)

Back in 2015, I visited my gynecologist because I was experiencing some rather heavy-duty bleeding. To everyone’s surprise, on one fateful Thanksgiving week, while I was visiting my folks in Pennsylvania, I received a call. It was the “You have endometrial cancer” kind of call. Within weeks, I found myself back in Boston, where they whisked me into surgery for a full hysterectomy. We thought we’d kicked cancer’s butt, and I charged forward. I helped launch Gentreo, an award-winning online estate planning company, volunteered at my nephew’s school (and even became the parent council president), led fundraisers, traveled, and spent quality time with family and friends. Oh, and I never skipped a check-up, always coming out with flying colors.

Family Penn State

Our family at Penn State where Mom and Dad retired

Frys Celebrating St Patrick's Day

Julie, Mom, Dad, and Blue

Family Game Night

Family game night back in Quincy

The Dreadfully Long Goodbye

We might be one of the few families who can say they benefited from COVID. Right as the pandemic began, our father started showing signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Unfortunately, both the pandemic and his ailment ramped up at breakneck speed. Next thing we knew, the world was on lockdown. I live with my sister, her husband, and their son in Quincy, MA just outside Boston. Liam is the light of my life and I’ve been with him since he was born.

Thankfully, we found a great balance in our family. Just before the lockdown hit, Renee, Liam, and I packed our bags and headed from Boston to State College, PA, to help out Mom and Dad and lay low. Ryan, my brother-in-law, was a great sport and had to stay in Boston as a critical employee for his company, but he was able to visit often. The only way we could’ve helped mom and dad while founding a startup from home is if the entire world basically went on pause, which it did.

This gave me the golden opportunity to assist Mom while our Dad gradually declined. Luckily, I was in decent health (except for carrying extra pounds), so I could help ease Mom’s load of caring for Dad. I used to be a leader at the National Association for Home Care and Hospice, so even though I’d never been a caregiver before, it was a role I cherished. I felt incredibly blessed to spend those two years with Mom and Dad as we embarked on the Gentreo adventure.

Alzheimer’s is aptly called the “long goodbye,” and it’s heartbreakingly accurate. Our Dad, once a proud, brilliant man, never lost his spirit. But, he did lose the ability to do basic things like feeding, dressing, and using the restroom. It was an immense amount of work, but I wore the badge of caregiver with pride because he’d given our family a wonderful life. Unfortunately, after nearly two years of battling, he passed away. Our brother and his wife had started building a home for our parents as Dad’s health deteriorated. Sadly, he never got to see it finished, but it provided Mom with a perfect place to age gracefully. As she relocated to Illinois, I moved back to Boston to continue igniting Gentreo’s growth.

That’s when life got good. COVID was slowly becoming a thing of the past. I lived with my sister and her family, so I became an active participant in Liam’s escapades—school, church, and more activities than I can count. I became a crafting extraordinaire, helped my church host Designer Purse Bingo (which I adore and still do with our friends’ church), traveled, cooked, shopped, and cheered on my Penn State Nittany Lions. Life was one grand, glorious adventure.

Not Your Average Hernia

In 2021, we asked Mom where she wanted to go on vacation, and she picked Hawaii. What an incredible trip we had! We snorkeled, stayed at the most perfect hotel, crammed in two or three activities every day, and had an absolute blast. But the whole time, I had this nagging stomach pain that I assumed was a hernia. There was a lump, so when I returned, I dialed up my doctor. Well, turns out, it wasn’t a hernia after all. It was a tumor that decided to set up shop in my stomach, and there was another one hanging out in my back. And just like that, the fun began. Well, okay, more like the madness began.

I always say, if you’re going to get sick, Boston is the place to do it. I was blessed with an incredible surgeon the first time around, and her team joined the superhero lineup that is my medical crew. I decided to tackle this head-on with some aggressive chemotherapy, and why not? I’m young (only 48 when it all began), relatively healthy, and I’ve got an attitude that could make even the toughest challenges cry uncle.

I’m Basically a Superhero!

Right before my first chemo session, our great friend, Fr. Joe Mazzone,  came by and gave me the sacrament of the blessing of the sick. He spoke about God’s power to guide us through the toughest of storms, quoting the words, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” Little did I know how those words would become my mantra in the months to come.

The first treatment was a doozy—I had a nasty reaction to the drug that was supposed to boost my white blood cell count. I remember trembling in bed, drenched in sweat, wishing for a reprieve from the excruciating pain. But once that storm passed, I was almost back to my old self. In fact, after the second treatment, I started losing my hair, but even then, I felt like a superhero because I dodged most of the side effects I’d been warned about. Heck, even shaving my head didn’t faze me much.

Just before COVID reared its head, we attended a trade show for Gentreo, and I baked a whopping 75 dozen ginger snap cookies using my mom’s prized recipe. Those cookies were the stars of the show. Shortly after I started losing my hair, the organizers of the convention gave me a call, offering us a discount for our booth—as long as we provided those coveted cookies. Throughout my entire chemo journey, I kept working. So, I promised to whip up a batch. Unfortunately, it was right before I had to shave my head, and I didn’t want my locks making their way into the cookies. My sister attempted to help by providing me with a shower cap and a hairnet, but I’ve got a pretty big head. When she left to pick up Liam, there I was, with a trash bag taped to my head, baking and wrapping 80 dozen cookies. I even made enough to treat all my nurses and the chemo staff. Best part? Not a single strand of hair was found in any of them.

Julie in Chemo

Throughout chemo, I kept a smile on my face



Attitude Is Everything

That story pretty much sums up who I am. It’s about putting in the hard work, taking care of business and others, giving it your all to get the job done, and doing it all with a smile. Chemo didn’t work all the way and neither did the hormone treatment after. In fact, the tumors grew back to their original size. But, I’m now on an experimental treatment at Mass General Hospital that I’m thrilled to say is working. There’s still a ton of side effects and it’s a daily fight, but it’s working. Throughout my rollercoaster ride with cancer—and oh boy, it’s been a wild ride—I’ve made it my mission to keep working, keep the faith, show gratitude to my friends, family, and medical squad, and keep moving forward. Here’s hoping that my tales can inspire others embarking on their own incredible journeys.

Picture of Julie Fry

Julie Fry

Julie Fry is the COO (Chief Operating Officer) of Gentreo. She has more than twenty years of experience in the eldercare industry. Julie is recognized as an eldercare expert and speaks on the evolving marketplace. Julie founded Gentreo to make estate planning available, accessible, and easy for everyone. She oversees the operations of the company including using her expertise in caregiving and family coordination to develop a product that helps address making estate planning a tool that can be used across one’s lifetime.

Prior to founding Gentreo, she founded Making Care Easier (MCE), an on-line and mobile application for caring for aging parents. While there, she was responsible for product development, marketing and establishing partnerships with companies such as Clorox. Julie spearheaded the very popular “Our Aging Market” conference at the Harvard Business School Association of Boston which brings together leading companies reaching the senior market and had over 300 attendees each year.

Previously, she served as an executive team member and director of marketing for the National Association for Home Care and Hospice (NAHC), the nation's largest home care, hospice, and private duty association. There, Julie helped fight for the rights of the elderly to age in place. While at NAHC, Julie helped found the National Private Duty Home Care Association. Julie led all marketing efforts including press, events, web development, and member communications for both organizations. Earlier in her career she worked at Akin Gump one of the nation’s top ten legal firms overseeing marketing and business development projects related to many of the firm’s largest clients and their international offices. Julie received her BA from Penn State and her master's in business from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.