A Warrior Who Once Fought for Our Country and the Streets of Jersey City, Now Fights Against Breast Cancer
By PO Valerie Stetz
This story really hits me hard. I met Gina Sandwith twenty-three years ago, when she was nine. Her dad Det. Harry Sandwith had been my Police Officers Benevolent Association (POBA) Union President. I had the pleasure of becoming good friends with this family who served the residents of Jersey City–Gina’s stay-at-home, PTA mother Debbie Sandwith, and her siblings, JCPO Joe Sandwith, and her twin sister, Nicole Sandwith-McCabe, a JC Medical Center EMT, and former Marine.
Gina also had a servant’s heart. After graduating from Holy Family Academy in Bayonne, and briefly attending New Jersey City University, she enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in July of 2008.
Gina did three tours overseas, one included a one-year combat tour in Afghanistan.
She earned the rank of sergeant, and later completed her contract with an honorable discharge.
Gina’s lifelong dream was realized on July 16, 2012 when she joined the Jersey City Police Dept, proudly receiving her Dad’s retired badge #2251. Currently, she is a South District Union Delegate and runs the explorer program for Jersey City PAL.
In February of 2017, Gina received the devastating news that she had breast cancer, which had stemmed from a small lump under her left arm that she had discovered a month earlier. When the lump had grown bigger and had become more painful, Gina sought the professional opinion of her doctor. It was determined that the cancer was environmental, and she had probably had it for five to seven years.
Always forward thinking, Gina–who is unmarried and without children–sought to freeze her eggs for the future, so that she could have children. However determined to beat the cancer and return to a normal life, her attempts were unsuccessful–another devastating blow.
Currently, Gina has completed two of the 20 required chemo sessions, and has been taking a medication that helps promote white blood cells but leaves her run-down, nauseous, in pain, and in bed. Yet, Gina is a fierce fighter who will not allow feelings of hopelessness to dominate her thoughts. Instead, she has decided to live on her terms, not on cancer’s terms. Bravely, she shaved her own head before the chemo made it fall out, and before arriving at the South District where she witnessed Blue love. Standing in front of her with heads shaven, were her partner, 24 officers, and supervisors.
Gina received another pleasant surprise after the first chemo treatment on Feb 28 when she was greeted by the Pink Heels Bergen County Chapter, escorted by the Untouchables MC of NJ, Fourth watch MC, and the Knights of Inferno MC, along with many friends and family.
On March 12, the NY/NJ Port Authority Police held a benefit for Gina with a barbeque, selling shirts, and raffling a weekend rental in a Porsche.
It is overwhelming and humbling to see the support and love people have for another person in need. Gina is extremely grateful for all the support and kindness she has been shown since her diagnosis–something that along with a positive state of mind–is necessary to beat this disease. Gina is a strong, young, beautiful woman who is going to beat cancer.
She has fought for us in the USMC, and on the streets of Jersey City. Let’s ban together and fight with her. Please pray for a full recovery, and help her in any way possible.
The Jersey City P.O.B.A. is hosting a benefit for Gina on May 6th, at Hudson Catholic HS from 6-11pm. Tickets are $50.00 each. Anyone seeking to purchase a ticket, make a monetary donation, or a gift basket, can call the JC POBA at 201-963-3484, or Joseph Sandwith at 201-870-3621.
You can also donate on her Go Fund Me page at gofundme.com “Gina’s excess medical expenses.”
God bless Gina, the Sandwiths, and her blue family.
Valerie A. Stetz (Velazquez) retired on accidental disability from the Jersey City Police Dept. She was injured in a radio car accident responding to a robbery in progress call. Valerie is a member of the NJ Police Honor Legion. She is the radio host for the popular Internet show “Your World Uncensored” on DDV RADIO. She is also the Public Relations Manager for Nj Blue Now Magazine. Valerie is married, with a son and daughter.