Friday, December 21, 2012

Radio host Robynn Jaymes humbled by support from her fans

Jaymes, who is recovering from pancreatitis, said people still come up to her in the grocery store to say they prayed for her.

Star Country DJ Robynn Jaymes talks during an on air segment of her show on Wednesday. The popular radio personality was off the air while suffering from pancreatitis and spending time in three hospitals.

Photos by Kyle Green | The Roanoke Times

Star Country DJ Robynn Jaymes talks during an on air segment of her show on Wednesday. The popular radio personality was off the air while suffering from pancreatitis and spending time in three hospitals.

Robynn Jaymes keeps a

Robynn Jaymes keeps a "feel good" cow on a microphone at her studio. Although she sounds back to normal on the air, she said she still experiences some pain.

Star Country DJ Robynn Jaymes prepares to talk during an on air segment of her show on Wednesday. Jaymes returned to the airwaves four months ago after a bout of pancreatitis.

Star Country DJ Robynn Jaymes prepares to talk during an on air segment of her show on Wednesday. Jaymes returned to the airwaves four months ago after a bout of pancreatitis.

Whatever happened to...?

Looking back

It was all supposed to be funny. Robynn Jaymes had a skit planned for her "Pajama Jam" breast cancer benefit at Hotel Roanoke in October. The popular Roanoke radio host was going to have her Star Country co-host, Brett Sharp — a guy — hauled off from the women-only, all-night country music party. A security guard was going to slap a pair of pink handcuffs on Sharp and take him out.

Something funny happened on the way to the pink pokey, however. When Jaymes took the stage, the pajamas-clad crowd inside the ballroom erupted in a standing ovation. They all knew that Jaymes had missed this party a year earlier, when she was hospitalized with acute pancreatitis. She was off the air for 10 months and had returned to her regular morning shift on Star Country (94.5 FM) on Aug. 1. The Pajama Jam was her first public appearance since her illness.

The crowd's reaction surprised her. She wasn't able to finish the skit.

"I started to cry," she said. "I wasn't ready for it. I lost my composure and I couldn't say the words. I was blown away by the response. I was humbled. I've learned so much about that word."

Four and a half months since her return to top-rated Star Country was featured on the front page of The Roanoke Times, Jaymes, 51, sounds just like her old self on the air, but she is still recovering from a serious illness. Pancreatitis is a severe inflammation of the pancreas, a gland that aids in digestion and releases insulin. Jaymes spent time in three hospitals — LewisGale Medical Center in Salem, University of Virginia Medical Center and Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital.

"What a difference a year makes," said her boss, Leonard Wheeler, president of Mel Wheeler Inc. "A year ago, she was going through this horrible health situation. Today, she seems grateful with where she is in life. She doesn't seem like she has let it drag her down."

Jaymes has made many lifestyle changes. She had to give up food favorites such as red meat and pizza — "I came out of the womb asking for pizza," she said — and now eats a healthy diet of poultry, fresh fruits and salads.

She said that she is "80 percent healed," but still experiences some pain, even while she is on the air.

The response from her many fans and friends has helped her deal with her illness. People email or call her daily with words of encouragement, or they stop to hug her in public, such as at a recent Virginia Tech women's basketball game Jaymes attended.

"I go to the grocery store and somebody came up and said, 'I prayed for you,'" Jaymes said. "These are strangers to me, but because they let me in their houses every day, they don't feel like I'm a stranger."

Her close friends have even helped with expenses. Jaymes has medical insurance through the radio station, but one of her medical providers was out of her network, so the bills totaled nearly $20,000. She recently moved in with friends in Roanoke County to help reduce her living costs.

As if she needed any additional expenses, somebody keyed her 2007 Saturn VUE sport utility vehicle in a parking lot earlier this month, doing extensive damage to the paint. She took the vehicle to DJ's Custom Auto Finishing in Bedford, which is owned by Donald Johnson, a longtime friend.

Johnson made repairs, which included a new paint job and fixing the driver's-side mirror. Jaymes was shocked when she saw her car — and even more stunned when she saw the itemized bill, which added up to about $1,200.

However, at the bottom of the bill where the total should have been were the words "Merry Christmas." Johnson didn't charge her a thing for the repairs.

Johnson has known Jaymes for nearly 20 years, when she was a DJ in Lynchburg and he was on the Bedford Life Saving Crew. They met while volunteering for a community food drive, so Johnson has long known Jaymes' commitment to pitching in to help those in need.

"I couldn't bear to charge her," Johnson said. "It was just the principle. My business has picked up by the grace of God and I have a little financial freedom. I wanted to reach out and help somebody when they needed it."

Other businesses helped with the repairs, including Finish Master in Roanoke, which donated the paint. On the bill, Johnson also wrote the verse from Proverbs 11:25, which includes the line: "He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed."

Jaymes will maintain her regular work schedule, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. during the week, and she hopes to increase her number of public appearances.

"I hope to get out more," she said. "I want the opportunity to say thank you."

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