Why Am I So Excited To Tell You About The Andrew Jay Reis Music Scholarship Foundation
Andrew Reis passed away on the 7th February 2017 after fighting brain cancer for over 12 years. Today is Andrew’s 2nd anniversary of when he passed away but he lives in our hearts and memories. In Andrew’s 2nd year anniversary, his family have set up The Andrew Jay Reis Music Scholarship Foundation to carry his name on forever. Join their Facebook Page HERE
Before I tell you about the Scholarship Foundation, it is important to know who Andrew was and how I knew him.
Andrew Reis a.k.a Ace Diamond, aged 38 from Rhode Island, was an upcoming music artist and songwriter who could melt a person’s heart when he sang. His soulful smooth voice was a recording producer’s dream. Andrew was pursuing his passion as a hip-hop artist and had already been spotted by well know music agents to sign him up. He had been on the hip-hop scene since he was a child and well known in Rhode Island. He was seen most weekends on stage at a number of venues.
Diagnosed with an Oligodendroglioma
Andrew was diagnosed with an Oligodendroglioma in 2005 when he was just 25. His diagnosis was picked up after having a grand-mal seizure at home while with his sister. He had shown no other symptoms prior to the seizure.
He was told the tumour was the size of a golfball and would need brain surgery. He was booked in for surgery 3 weeks later in December 2005 to remove the tumour.
The surgeons were able the remove the tumour and Andrew were sent home with a rehabilitation plan to help build him up as he had some nerve damage to one side of his body. He was doing well and was getting back to work, performing and progressing his dreams.
However, in October 2006 a tumour had grown again and he would need a 2nd operation to remove it. It was after that surgery they could see the tumour was now cancerous.
After the operation, Andrew was then on a plan to take a brand new chemotherapy pill called Temozolomide for six weeks and then radiotherapy for six weeks. He was part of the trial and the drug had not yet been used for brain cancer.
As the drug was doing a good job his medical team told him that he could stay on
the chemo pills for 5 years and if he had not had a relapse he would be considered to be in remission.
The drug was doing its job up until 2011 when sadly the Cancer returned. He went on more pills and an IV transfusion. By the end of 2011, Andrew was cancer free again. He was told to stay on the Temozolomide and to get on with his life.
It was at this time where Andrew wanted to help other people with cancer and raise awareness for the disease. He was approached by a film producer who was doing a documentary about the drug Temozolomide and wanted to follow Andrew’s Cancer journey. The Film was called These Three Words.
How I Met Andrew
In August, England was in the middle of a heat wave, and the temperatures were sizzling in the 30’s. I was a part of Croydon Radio at this time and was interviewing a number of people affected by a brain tumour. I was going to have The ‘These Three Words’ team on the show the following week and made the joke that I would maybe get the hip-hop artist’s phone number if he were single. Obviously, this was tongue in cheek.
I had set up a day for the producer Paul and the star of the film Andrew Reis (Ace Diamond) to be interviewed on the 8th and Andrew would talk about the film, and as they were only in London for three days, I offered to put all three of them up at my house.
On the 7th August, they arrived and understandably, were still a little jet-lagged. They enthralled us by telling us all about the film and all the things they had been shooting over the last four years.
After a lovely meal that my mother cooked, I decided I needed to take a break. The room was getting noisy with all the different animated conversations. As usual, I could only cope with one sound at a time. I asked Andrew to sing something for me. His face was a picture. “What! Right now?” I laughed and said
“No, come upstairs, we can get my equipment out I already have a ready-made studio from being a karaoke junkie in my college days. I explained I used to set up karaoke nights when I was in college to earn a bit of money.” “OK Sure”. He said.
I started singing first and hoped that he didn’t put his fingers in his ears, but he seemed quite impressed with my vocals. I happened to have the backing track for Rhianna with ‘Diamonds’ in the disc player. I know, I know, very corny, I sang it anyway!
Once I’d warmed up the room, and done my bit, I handed over the microphone to Andrew. I was excited as I had heard him rapping online, but I hadn’t heard him sing in any other genre. When he started, I all but melted. He had such a soulful voice, very sexy. I could hear echoes of Marvin Gaye in my mind humming ‘Let’s Get It On’.
Once we had done our solo performances, we got the duets out. It was so much fun, I could have sung with him all night, and I could see he was having as much fun as I was.
Once we had exercised our vocal cords, I suggested hot chocolate drinks with marshmallows. I like to think of myself as a hot chocolate connoisseur, so I was in my comfort zone.
Andrew was so easy to talk to. We chatted for hours and continued to share our experiences and talk about our childhoods. We talked about music, about our faith and our hopes and dreams for the future. It was much later before we realised everyone was fast asleep in the house, and we really should get some rest. As Andrew was leaving my room, we could hear Paul snoring like a foghorn. Andrew was not impressed, as he was going to be sleeping in the same room as Paul. We looked at each other and laughed. I made a joke saying, ‘You can stay in my room on the floor if you like’. I didn’t think for a second that he would take up my offer. I was a bit embarrassed to have said anything really because I wasn’t sure where he was going to sleep.
As it was a boiling hot night, and nobody needed to sleep under a duvet just a sheet, I put my duvet on the floor to make it less uncomfortable, and provide some sort of a mattress for Andrew as well as some pillows to sleep on.
I asked if he was sure it was comfortable enough. He said he didn’t have a bed at home and he was used to sleeping on the floor. I was thinking, ‘Thank goodness for that’ when he started laughing, and I realised that he was pulling my leg. I just raised my eyebrow and smiled back.
I did have every intention of sleeping; I was exhausted, and I really was struggling to keep my eyes open. Andrew was still wide awake at 2 am; I guessed that was because he was in Rhode Island time which was 5hrs behind the UK and we carried on talking although I was mumbling most of my words I was so tired I kept drifting in and out of sleep and in and out of the conversation. It was so effortless to speak with Andrew, it really was like talking to a best friend. We talked about everything, and I was astonished to find myself sharing with him, things I wouldn’t usually share with people, and I think he felt the same.
We discovered that both of us wanted to set up our own foundations where people who had been affected by a brain tumour could go for support and because we were both such huge music fanatics we would do a charity single together, and we’d set up a concert. We sat deciding what our tour would be called and came up with the name ‘The Grey Diamond Tour’. I would be Andrew’s guest singer and speaker, and we would sing a song together. It all felt real, exciting and possible we believed in everything that we said. It was true that Andrew and I had just met but never the less here we were talking about how our lives could be very much entwined as we went forward on a path together.
We were finally trying to fall asleep at about five or six am, but just as we would be about to drop off something else would occur to one or the other of us. We just had such a great connection, and we could not let sleep rob us of even a minute.
In the morning, we all got up for a delicious cooked breakfast courtesy of Mum. Once we had filled our bellies, we all got ready and booked a taxi to the radio studio.
The two-hour show went well, and it flew by. Afterwards, I had set up a meet and greet. People who wanted to meet Andrew and watch the trailer for the documentary.
After my sleepless night, I was struggling to keep my eyes open, and the hall we had hired out was echoing which made it hard for me to hear what was being said clearly. I decided that I better leave them in Mum’s capable hands and jumped on the bus home.
I had a feeling Andrew would worry about my sudden disappearance as it was a bit strange me not coming back so I sent him a text to say I would see him later apologizing to have left so abruptly. He replied straight back to me saying that he had been worried but was glad I was ok. I explained about my tiredness, and how it affected me, and it was nice, for once to know that here was someone who genuinely understood what I was saying.
When I woke up from my catnap, they were all back at the house. It sounded like the gathering had been a success.
After another lovely dinner with everyone, I asked Andrew if he wanted to watch movies in my room. Now I wanted to spend as much time with him as possible as I knew that he would be leaving the following morning. We made some popcorn and headed upstairs. I knew it was a little rude leaving Paul and Theresa with my parents, but I really did not want to waste a moment of being with Andrew. I was being selfish – I wanted him all to myself.
As we sat watching TV with the lights off and just the glow from the screen, I was beginning to get butterflies in my tummy. That was a feeling that I had not had for the longest time, and I realised that I liked this guy a lot. I was sitting as close as possible to him without sitting on him. I felt relief wash over me as it was becoming clear now that he felt the same way about me.
I wanted him to kiss me, so I decided to make it as visible as possible. I screwed up my courage and asked him boldly “You want to kiss me don’t you?” He smiled and laughed and said, “Yes”. I was thinking in my head “Just do it!” And then he did.
We sat cuddled up watching the films and just appreciated the time that we had together. I didn’t want the evening to end. We tried to stay awake talking as long as possible but after a sleepless night the night before we were both exhausted and we both fell asleep.
I woke up early to get Paul, Andrew and Teresa into a taxi to London Heathrow Airport. They were flying to Norway where they were going to produce the soundtrack that Andrew had written for the film.
As they drove away, I had no idea if I would hear from Andrew again. I was trying to keep calm and had to force myself not to be the first person to message. When I received Andrews’s text later that day I was so glad that I felt quite emotional:
“I can’t stop thinking about the last two days I spent with you. I could have just spent time with you all day and night talking, watching movies, making each other laugh, and besides all that I just have to say I feel like I have met a unique and beautiful person in you! I know we will keep in touch and see what happens! I do believe we met for a huge purpose.”
I had a smile as broad as the Indian Ocean. I had heard those cliched stories before about people who had known very soon after meeting someone that they would be with them forever. I was astonished to realise that I was saying to myself I’m going to marry this man!
The next few weeks, were a whirlwind of mutual adoration, admiration and excitement about where this adventure would go. It felt like Andrew had left my life as quickly as he came into it, but he had definitely left a print on my heart. I knew we were going to try and see if we could make it work.
We both carried on our lives, I worked on the radio shows, and Andrew was singing most weeks with his band. We would text each other every five minutes, sharing every little thing what we were up to. Every question we asked each other was a tick in the box. What was nice though as we both said that if either of us were ever unwell or just feeling very fatigued, then neither of us would be upset if plans had to be cancelled. We both knew that feeling of having to say no, or drop out where our sometimes-precarious health was concerned, and we would never make the other feel bad over any missed dates for anything.
We quizzed each other imagining scenarios that we might face once we were officially together and we discussed how we would deal with whatever we faced.
Andrew put forward his scenario: “Ok, so I’m doing a concert or show, and you’re, of course, backstage enjoying it!! The show is over, and I have fans to greet and meet, do you stay by my side while I do this, or get upset because you want to leave? (But so that you know you will always come first with things like that)”.
I knew we were potentially taking a big risk, but there was no doubt that it felt right. In a swift decision, because I had decided that if this was going to stand a chance of actually working, we needed to be able to spend some more time together, so I suggested travelling to New York to meet him. It was entirely out of my comfort zone, and I was going by blind faith. To my delight, he was more than happy to spend some more time together, and I just could not wait.
I knew the trip was not going to be a problem with respect to us spending too much time together, as we always had so much to say. The problem was going to be leaving Andrew behind at the end of it, and that was going to be very hard.
On the 18th of August, I booked a flight to New York, arranging with Andrew that he would meet me there for a few days. I knew we were taking a significant risk, but it felt so right.
While Andrew and I were falling in love very quickly, I still was committed to my radio show and my part in getting people to share their experiences. Every week Andrew would manage to wake up at 7 am EST time to listen to my show, and I loved his support. Although my show was very much a talk show, we did play music too. I would play songs that were relevant to Andrew and me. Only we would know it was for us. One of our favourites was the “All of Me” by John Legend.
A slightly awkward moment came when my Radio Manager told me that all use of the Internet was recorded to make sure any presenter did not misuse the Internet. Suddenly we had the horrific realisation that all our mushy and romantic conversations were being read. I was so embarrassed and immediately stopped the dialogue with Andrew. We confined ourselves to the use of my personal mobile and WhatsApp.
Before I knew it the year had just flown by, and it was December 2nd. I was packed and ready to go to New York and see Andrew. I was thrilled but anxious at the same time. It was a big deal for me that I was taking this trip alone. After my 10-hour flight, I arrived at JFK airport. I had got on a shuttle bus to the hotel, and the driver told me that it was likely to be a while as it was rush hour in the city. Even so, I had no idea it would take three hours to get there! I was the last passenger to get off. Andrew was already at the hotel after his own long coach trip from Providence. I felt terrible that he had waited over 3hrs for me.
My heart was pounding as I walked through the lobby of the Intercontinental Hotel and over to the check-in desk. The light was very dim, and I couldn’t see that well. There was a man about three meters away from me, and as nobody else was there, I guessed it was Andrew. He looked different, and I began to panic a bit. It had only been four months since we saw each other face to face but ‘oh boy’ did he look different. As I steeled myself, the man walked away. For a split second, I thought ‘Yikes, he’s gone’. Then I saw Andrew. He was sitting on the lobby sofa behind. There was the man I remembered! A big cheesy smile lit up my face.
I picked up the hotel key and walked to Andrew and said hello. We were both clearly shy, and he put his hand out and led me to the elevators. As we waited for a lift to the 6th floor with our luggage, we were smiling. I thought I would break the ice and gave him a big hug and a big kiss. We got to our room, and to my delight, we found that we had been upgraded to the Deluxe King Room. We had a lovely view over Times Square. Holding hands, we both just flopped onto the bed with relief that we had made it and we were together again.
We decided to get up and go into the city for a drink. We both had no idea where to go, and we went to the first bar we saw. We sat talking and enjoying each others company. We didn’t stay too long. We went back to the hotel and raided the mini bar and ate the complimentary chocolate and refreshments from our room fridge. We rested on the bed listening to Andrew’s iPhone playlist that he had put together with all our favourite tracks.
The following day I was wide awake at 5 am as I was still running on British time. Andrew would have liked more sleep. To make up for waking him up so early, I ordered breakfast in the room. I think that smoothed things over. The meals are so big and full of sugar. Yummy.
Looking out of the window, it seemed so lovely and sunny, but I knew it would be cold. I could see the steam spiralling up from the grates along the street. It was an iconic New York sight. We wrapped up warm and headed to The Empire State Building and travelled right up to the top. We were rewarded with magnificent views over New York. It was like the scene from ‘Sleepless In Seattle’ with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. We were two people from entirely different worlds, but it worked, and I really loved him, and I knew that he loved me too.
I had organised for us to meet a friend called Rosalie and her husband on the 4th whom I had initially met on my Aunty M Brain Tumours Facebook Page two years earlier. Rosalie had been through her own brain tumour battles but was one of the bubbliest people I’ve ever come across. She has an incredible sense of humour and makes me laugh so much. I was looking forward to Andrew and Rosalie meeting each other.
We had made plans to meet in Times Square by the big Christmas tree in the centre. But I hadn’t realised that New York was on shutdown as Mariah Carry was arriving to turn the Christmas lights on in the city. It was absolutely packed. Finding each other was going to be next to impossible, we very nearly gave up and were about to give up when by some miracle we saw each other.
We piled into a taxi to take us to a nice Italian restaurant that Rosalie and her husband had been going to for years. As we were driving past all the crowds heading towards the big Christmas tree, a nun came to the window, and Rosalie told the sister we were brain tumour survivors. In a surreal moment, she gave us all a pendant with the Virgin Mary on and blessed us all.
We finally got to the restaurant and sat down. We were left with no uncertainty that we were to be treated by Rosalie’s husband who wanted to pay for everything. The connection between Rosalie and her husband was electric; they bounced off one another and were entirely in sync. I couldn’t help hoping that is how I want to be with my husband one day.
After our meal, we wished Rosalie and her husband farewell and went on our way. It was only 8 pm, so we decided to go to the 250 Fifth Rooftop Bar. I had read about it before I came to New York. They gave blankets to everyone as it was freezing outside. The blankets were bright red, and when you put the hoods up, everyone looked like Little Red Riding Hood. I managed to get Andrew to put his hood up and quickly took a selfie before he took it off. It was not a look that went with his usual cool persona.
After a beautiful evening, we went back to our hotel. It was our last night in New York, and I felt sick knowing after that day was going to really put a strain on our relationship. We had no plans for when we would meet again. There was no way we could, while Andrew was doing the film that had no deadline yet.
After what felt like the perfect time together, I felt we had to take a step back, and I suggested maybe we should take a break from the pressure as boyfriend and girlfriend, and that we should just be friends, great friends. It could take over a year for Andrews film to be sorted and I was in no position to up and leave home and live in Rhode Island. I knew it was a big ask, I loved him and hoped he would understand and agree.
His response was: “I love you with all I have, and I don’t want to lose what we have built, but it makes sense what you are saying. I will accept a break or however you want to put it in your words. I’d rather have you as a friend for now than lose you altogether. I can’t imagine losing someone I love so much completely. You are an amazing woman, and I hope I am the man you are supposed to be with. I think I could be perfect for you. I guess it’s just not now. I love you, Claire…I really do and I only want what’s best for you.”
I headed back to London and hoped the wait between now and when I met with Andrew again would be fast and not too hard. We both needed to keep as busy as possible.
I went home that night and wrote a letter to Andrew:
Dear Mr Reis,
I just wanted to say; I love you very much. I thought I’d write you this because maybe you’ll keep it and one day we’ll look back and say…. It was worth the wait. I will always hold on to the feeling I had from your time in the UK and our time in New York and our conversations. I do hope we will be together one day. In my heart I know it will happen and all the distance we have now will become a distant memory. I know we are busy and you have a lot to resolve. I know it is not easy on you waiting for things to fall into place but, it will soon. I honestly believe that.
I know there is going to be a bunch of hurdles we will have to jump including our friendship, probably because of misunderstandings or just because I am very impatient. However, I am learning to be less impatient every day.
Claire (Miss B)
His reply was:
I love you very much too. I hope and wish everything we ever spoke about together does come together, even though at this time things are really busy and hectic for the both of us. It won’t always be this hectic, but I guess this is just the calm before the storm, and when all is settled we will come out of it stronger and better than before! I too still hold on to my trip there and meeting you as one of the very best experiences in my life!! As well as New York and our time spent there was amazing! I do have to say thank you for your undeniable patience with me at this time in my life which is extremely tough as you know, but you have been extraordinarily patient and kind and helpful to me and words cannot describe how appreciative I am.
It was always going to be hard for us to actually have a relationship but, we were both happy to be friends going forward. A friendship that was unbreakable till the end.
What Happened Next with Andrew’s Cancer?
In August 2014 Andrew had his scheduled 6-month MRI scan. The scan showed he had another malignant tumour.
Physically he was feeling strong and was ready to fight again. He would be going back on the Tramadol pill for another 6 weeks but was determined to keep working and not let the treatment hold him back.
The pills were working and on the next scan showed there was no sign of the tumour. But this time his body was starting to struggle physically. He was back having physio to help with mobility. In November 2016, Andrew was told he needed tests because something had been flagged up on his MRI scan.
Andrew was set to have a biopsy to confirm whether the scan was showing scarring from his surgery or cancer. There was no need to put him back on to chemo pills if he didn’t have cancer. His body had been through enough. He was booked in on the 23rd of November for a pre-consultation about the biopsy.
On the 1st December, he went for his operation. After a week waiting for the results, the surgeon said it was cancer and it was not possible to do any more treatment.
On the 7th February, Andrew passed away surrounded by his family.
Andrew’s Families Mission To Fulfill Andrews Dream: – The Andrew Jay Reis Music Scholarship Foundation
Here is the Reis Families message:
“The Andrew Jay Reis Music Scholarship Foundation was established by his loving family, in honor of the memory, passion and achievements of a musician gone too soon. Andrew believed that Music enriched his heart, nourished his mind, and healed his soul. He also realized early on that musicians, particularly from RI and the New England area, are challenged with opportunities and resources that are often few and far between.
The Andrew Jay Reis Music Scholarship Foundation is intended to encourage students who have demonstrated the capacity to achieve educational and professional goals in the music industry, by rewarding and recognizing the initiative to seek opportunities to further their dreams in any concentration of the field”.
#TEAMACE will live on through Drews family and love for him. It all started with an idea from Andrew and it will continue to grow with your help! – The Reis Family
On behalf of our brother “Drew” we would like to extend our deepest gratitude to everyone who has reached out and made donations. It truly means a lot to us and means the world to him. Thank you to all of you who continue to join us for the annual AJR Music Scholarship Foundation benefit. It’s an AWESOME event and we look forward to seeing everyone each year to celebrate this AMAZING man’s life! Anyone inquiring about donations to the foundation, please make checks payable to the “Andrew Jay Reis Music Scholarship Foundation”. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.