When Winter Park Master Police Officer John Reynolds made his way to a walk-in clinic under the advice of his wife last spring, he figured the pain in his body was from a gallbladder issue.
The situation was much more severe — Reynolds was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer, which had spread to his liver and spine.
“It ended up being something completely different,” he said.
As the reality of his new situation set in, so did another aspect of the medical system — the cost. Although insurance would cover much of Reynold’s surgery and subsequent treatments, those procedures would be performed in New York City and the transportation costs for both Reynolds and his family would go uncovered.
Fortunately, Reynolds hasn’t been alone throughout this ordeal. He has his brotherhood watching his back.
“John’s part of the family,” said Lt. John Montgomery, of the Winter Park Police Department. “At Winter Park, (the department) is just one big family. We try to take care of each other the best we can. When one of us is hurt, we all hurt, so we’re trying to do what we can to lessen the impact on his family.”
To that end, the department has been donating to a GoFundMe initiative to raise money for Reynold’s cancer treatments. The campaign garnered nearly $8,000 in just a week.
The department is also currently in the middle of a more unorthodox initiative. Officers who donate $25 or more to Reynold’s GoFundMe will be allowed to grow beards or paint their fingernails. Montgomery said the officers have stepped up, and that’s evident with the amount of facial hair and painted nails now seen in the department.
Reynolds always was interested in committing to public service — he said he never got over wanting to be a police officer like other children — and has been a school resource officer at Lakemont Elementary for more than a year. He loves his job, because he feels he can make more of a difference by being a role model to students.
As for the outpouring of support from the police department and the Winter Park community, he said it’s a feeling that’s hard to put into words.
“It’s just hard to explain; I knew I worked with good people,” Reynolds said. “They are truly like a second family, I don’t know how to explain it. … I’m amazed at their kindness and generosity.”
Following his initial surgery, Reynolds will be expected to travel back to New York every two weeks. It’s a severe schedule that doesn’t look to slow down anytime soon, and the best Reynolds can hope for is eventually only needing treatment once every four weeks. He said he is ready to face what comes next.
“I’m hopeful we can get to the point where there’s a cure instead of just maintenance,” he said.