Lake Worth Beach cancer survivor hoping Rudy’s fundraiser will take bite out of medical bills
Updated: May 9, 2022
FLIP ON THE remote these days, the scrolling menu of television viewing options can seem endless.
For Jeff Shores of Lake Worth Beach, there’s really just one go-to channel for must-see TV — the Food Network.
When he’s not watching English Premier League soccer or his beloved New England Patriots, he’s devouring shows like “BBQ Brawl,’’ “Guy’s Ranch Kitchen,” and “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”
Shores’ voracious appetite for watching television chefs like Guy Fieri prepare succulent, mouth-watering meals might seem odd for a man who hasn’t eaten food since October.
“It’s something I look forward to,’’ he says with a smile. “I can see the food and it’s like I can taste it. It’s my therapy.’’
For the past four years, Shores has been waging what he calls “a tough ugly fight” for his life.
In early 2018, he was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. Surgeons removed the tumor, and he was cancer free for eight months before tests found more tumors.
During surgery to remove those new tumors, surgeons at the University of Miami Sylvester Cancer Center also performed a “hot chemotherapy” treatment, called hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC), which involves filling the abdominal cavity with chemotherapy drugs that have been heated.
The surgery was successful, but side effects of the “hot chemo” took a toll. His intestines bunched up with adhesions, cutting off his ability to digest and pass food.
Surgeons removed some of his small bowel in February. They’re confident he will eventually heal, allowing him to finally bite into a cheeseburger again, but it could take a year.
Until then, his daily “meals” are confined to a liquid form of food called TPN, or parenteral nutrition, a medical term for infusing nutrition intravenously. With tubes and bags and IVs, it can be a complicated process to set up, but he gets plenty of support from his wife Sue, daughter Lindsay and son Matt.
Yes, Shores says, taking liquid meals every day without tasting anything is an odd experience. But he's at least able to enjoy some sensations of taste. He can drink Gatorade, apple juice and chocolate milkshakes, which are passed through tubes connected to his side.
Doctors have told him he’s cancer free. Now, it’s just a matter of his stomach healing and his legs regaining strength. (Because his last surgery kept him in the hospital for two months, he lost muscle in his legs.)
A physical therapist visits twice a week. He goes for short strolls every day, leaning on a walker for a block or two in his Mango Groves neighborhood.
Though he is slowly getting better, the medical bills continue to pile up. Insurance covers some of it. But his monthly out-of-pocket expenses for the TPN and other bills are about $3,000 a month.
He's unable to work. And unless he and his family dip into their limited savings, it’s tough to scrape together that kind of money each month.
Shores, 60, and his wife have never been ones to ask for help; they’re not comfortable doing that. But their close circle of friends are rallying by their side.
On Saturday May 14, they’re hosting a fundraiser at Rudy’s Pub at 21 S. J St. in downtown Lake Worth Beach to help with the Shores’ expenses. From 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., local musicians will perform, prizes will be raffled and cold beer will flow.
Rudy’s owner Mary Sisoian, who attended Sacred Heart Elementary School with Sue Shores, is pledging 20 percent of the bar’s proceeds that day.
Cash and check donations are encouraged. The only requirement to attend: “No Grumpy People Allowed,’’ as the popular bar’s motto says.
Even if you don’t know Jeff Shores, chances are you’ve been indirectly impacted by him in a positive way some time over the last 20 years.
As a long-time festival manager, he’s been boots-on-the-ground at dozens of public events across Palm Beach County, responsible for keeping the good times rolling at the South Florida Garlic Fest, the Lake Worth Beach Street Painting Festival, the Delray Affair and Bacon & Bourbon Fest in Wellington, to name a few.
Before all of that, he worked as a bartender, including a stint in the 1980s at Chuck & Harold’s on Palm Beach, serving drinks to the posh island’s movers-and-shakers.
“I served many Kennedys,’’ Shores said. “I had to ask Ted Kennedy to leave Chuck & Harold’s because he’d had too much to drink.’’
Now, he’s dreaming about the day when he can eat food again. With help from the Food Network, he's getting lots of ideas for that first meal when doctors finally give him the green light to open wide.
“Maybe spaghetti and meatballs,’’ he said.
He still remembers the date of his last meal: “Salmon and rice on Oct. 16.’’
In the meantime, Shores offers this food for thought:
“I encourage everyone to get a colonoscopy screening,’’ he said. “Early detection is the key to beating this disease.’’
(Can't make it this Saturday? You can still help the Shores family by emailing a donation via Zelle to email@example.com or via Venmo at @Marc-shores.)
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About the author
Joe Capozzi is an award-winning reporter based in Lake Worth Beach. He spent more than 30 years in the newspaper business, mostly at The Palm Beach Post, where he wrote about the opioid scourge, invasive pythons, the birth of the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches and Palm Beach County government. For 15 years, he covered the Miami Marlins baseball team. Joe left The Post in December 2020. View all posts by Joe Capozzi.