Jerry Masso of North Providence, R.I., a Correctional Officer at the Rhode Island Department of Corrections’ Intake Service Center for nearly 12 years, received the most sobering news of his life this July 1st when tests revealed a cancerous mass in his colon. He has since undergone six weeks of radiation and chemotherapy but hasn’t missed a day of work. In an expression of concern and support, Shawn Largy, a fellow CERT Team member and a C.O. at Maximum Security, enlisted about 15 colleagues to participate in a motorcycle ride on September 13th at Gillette Castle in East Haddam, CT, in Jerry’s honor. That was the very day Jerry finished with his initial trial of chemotherapy, and the riders delayed the start of the ride while his chemo pump was disconnected. A week later, they presented him with a signed copy of a group photo taken outside of the castle.
Masso, a father of four children ranging in age from 18 to 25, has been touched by his co-workers’ support. “Everybody in the Department has been awesome,” he says, adding,” It really makes you feel good.”
Jerry has a tough road ahead and is facing surgery on November 3rd, to be followed by a more intensive round of chemo which will leave him particularly susceptible to infection and has numerous side effects. The riders specifically planned the ride before he got too ill to participate, with the goal of holding another in the fall.
For the past four years, Jerry has been on a special assignment overseeing all DOC weapons and security equipment for all of the prisons, to include ammunition, radios, restraints, duty gear, and related items. Through his work, he has developed strong friendships with personnel department-wide.
This is not the first time RIDOC employees have banned together in a show of support for a co-worked diagnosed with cancer. CO John Gorman, also assigned to the Intake Service Center, has been battling brain cancer for four years. Spearheaded by colleague Mike Porter, “Team Gorman” was formed in John’s honor to participate in events to raise money for Dana Farber and cancer research. They have raised thousands of dollars through runs, walks, and a golf tournament and have a website, www.teamgorman.org, which details their efforts.
“Corrections is one of the most challenging work environments in the state, particularly for our line staff,” notes RIDOC Director Ashbel T. Wall II. “As a result, deep bonds are formed between colleagues and there really is a sense of ‘having each others’ back.’ When difficult circumstances befall someone from within our ranks, it’s not unusual for there to be an outpouring of concern and support.”
Jerry plans to work right up until his surgery and then will have a two-month recovery period. He’ll undoubtedly have the framed and signed photo from the Gillette Castle motorcycle ride by his bedside for inspiration and support.