News Local

Fundraiser for retired officer

Cheryl Browne

By Cheryl Browne, Barrie Examiner

Bernie Cullen

Bernie Cullen

His job was helping others and now he needs a little help himself.

Bernie Cullen was a Metro Toronto police officer for 25 years before he retired to his home in Tiny Township with his wife, Lee Cullen.

She said she first noticed his health was failing a few years ago.

"Bernie has always been in ridiculously amazing health," Lee said on Thursday.

After being diagnosed with low iron, the couple thought he'd rebound once he started on iron pills.

But last year, when he lost his appetite - and 30 pounds in a two-month period - Cullen said they knew something was wrong.

By mid-February, they found out that Bernie had Stage 4 prostate cancer.

"It's too late for surgery because it has spread into his liver and there's very little of his liver that's not affected. And a transplant is not feasible," she said.

Bernie is now taking chemotherapy at Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre for three days every two weeks and his tumour has shrunk a little, she said.

Worried as she is about Bernie's health, there's also the cost of being a pensioner with cancer.

Trips to the hospital have been offered by friends and Bernie has sometimes driven himself.

But the cost of gas, hospital parking, more than $300 in medications each month plus health supplements have taken their toll on the Cullen's budget.

Now that the deck leading into their home has fallen into disrepair, the couple are doubly concerned because Lee is in a wheelchair.

"I tried mowing the grass in my wheelchair but I damaged the wheelchair," she said. "There's all kinds of little things adding up that we just can't take care of right now."

That's where Frank Nelson comes in.

The Barrie man whose bucket list became a way of paying it forward to other people who were suffering - Nelson has the same prostate cancer as Bernie - has eased the suffering of 42 people to date.

"I've still got eight more to go," Nelson said, meaning he wants to help 50 people with $1,000 gifts before he moves on to his next project.

Although Nelson has terminal cancer too, it hasn't reached his liver as Bernie's has.

Nelson is hosting a fundraiser for the Cullens at the Buffalo Wild Wing on Oct. 3 at 6 p.m. with a raffle and silent auction prizes.

Lee's sister Shelley Campbell, who lives in B.C., has also created a gofundme page, Take a Bite Out of Cancer 4 Bernie (https://www.gofundme.com/2nfvqd24).

Nelson has visited 20 police stations in central Ontario, to get the message out to first responders who might want to help a retired officer.

For more information, visit Frank Nelson's Facebook page or his website, iampayingitback.com.

CBrowne@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/cherylbrowne1



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