Slack Tide Brewing Company in Clermont, Dennis Township, was chugging along fine. In the 4-plus years since its doors opened in 2015, Slack Tide continued to grow its brand, expanding both the size of the brewery and its reach throughout South Jersey. Its beer was available at more than 200 bars, restaurants and liquor stores and garnering accolades within the industry, including a bronze medal at the Great American Beer Festival, the Oscars of the beer industry, in 2018.
Owners Jason and Tadhg Campbell and their staff had worked hard for their success and were poised to grow even bigger.
Fast forward to February 2020. I was at Slack Tide doing a livestream promoting their beer dinner at the Cape May-Lewes Ferry and, before we started, Jason took me and my partner Tom Renzulli aside and told us, "I am not going to have a beer on the show because I have cancer.” It hit me like a ton of kegs. Jason was way too young to be dealing with this. I mean you aren’t even supposed to get checked for this until you were 50, right? (45 is now the recommended age for screening.) We spoke about his planned course of treatment and prognosis and how he figured out there was something wrong. Jason was extremely upbeat and confident that he was one of the lucky ones and would be able to have a full recovery.
“I hadn’t been feeling myself, and I told my wife that something is not right and she convinced me to get an MD appt. That appointment was when I was scheduled for a colonoscopy and on January 9th, 2020 I received positive diagnoses of Stage II rectal cancer”
According to the American Cancer Society, excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States, and the second most common cause of cancer deaths when men and women are combined. Jason was one of the lucky ones. He noticed some changes in his bowel habits and went to see a doctor who diagnosed him. He now had to face chemo, radiation, surgery, then another round of chemo. Then after that was done, he would need a reversal of the colostomy that was done during the surgical process. So a plan was in place and his prognosis was good. If all went according to plan, in about 9 months he would be put back together again. A month after his diagnosis, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, crippling the ways that local breweries would be able to do business and the ways that Jason would be treated for his cancer.
Breweries make a good portion of their money through sales of draft beer out of their taprooms. This was now not an option. Distribution of draft beer to restaurants and bars accounts for another large portion of their income, and this was severely crippled. The Governor’s Office and the New Jersey ABC gave the breweries latitude to allow curbside pickup and delivery, but the margins start to shrink when you have to put beer in cans. The margins can be cut as much as 50% over draft sales, but it was still a way to keep beer moving and keep the lights on. As all of this was going on, Jason was getting treatment for his cancer.
“Life is really short, and you never know what curveball you’re going to have to face every day, and the ability to compartmentalize the different issues of family, cancer, COVID-19, and my business was instrumental in getting me through this fight.”
Jason underwent successful surgery in the beginning of June but had complications and had to return to the hospital for an additional 18 days. Hospital stays during the time of coronavirus mean no visitors and very limited ability to move about the hospital. He improved over this time and was released just in time to see his son’s high school graduation and is feeling better every day. Jason has returned to work at Slack Tide and is learning to navigate the new business environment that COVID-19 has brought upon us all the while continuing his healing journey.
“I hope to be back to 100% by midfall. I could not have done this without the support of my wife, Bobbie, my brother, Tadgh, and the extended Slack Tide family who supported me unfailingly during this process.”
For more information on cancer, visit the American Cancer Society at cancer.Org or make an appointment with your physician. Jason is living proof that early detection and treatment is the key to having a successful outcome with a cancer diagnosis.