To say Jimmy Jay Powell has a magnetic personality would be like saying the sun is warm. Even as the eloquent, 76-year-old Santa Maria man wends his way through rounds of radiation and chemotherapy, he offers grace, love and inspirational words for his neighbors, friends and fellow patients.
“Wherever I find myself, I go to help somebody, and end up helping myself,” Jimmy Jay said.
And through it all, he holds tightly to his teammate, his confidante, his wife: Hannah Powell.
“Everything we do, we do as a team,” Jimmy Jay said. “We’re about judging beyond appearances, and obtaining the positive view of what we see. Nothing is as it appears to be.”
Born and raised in Boyle Heights just east of downtown Los Angeles, Jimmy Jay always had difficulty keeping his feet planted in one place.
“I’m from the metaphysical school of thought. My life has been full of experiences that are very spiritual and mystical. Since I was a kid, I’ve always had difficulty keeping my feet planted, so seeking to make things better has taken me halfway around the world,” Jimmy Jay said.
As an actor, minister and writer, his home range expanded to include Rome, and France, and his life experience to include work with Sammy Davis, Jr., Bill Cosby and William Shatner. Under the name Jay Scorpio Powell, he appeared on television series including The Mod Squad, The Bill Cosby Show, E.R., Monk, Lincoln Heights, and Ghost Whisperer, and the 2001 film “Mr. Dungbeetle.”
Jimmy Jay was first diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2010. Four years later, after moving to Santa Maria, he was diagnosed with an advanced form of the disease that included metastases. By February 2015, he had begun a journey at Mission Hope that would include radiation, chemotherapy, counseling, men’s cancer group participation and nutrition coaching.
There isn’t a soul working at Mission Hope for whom the Powells aren’t grateful.
“Doctors, assistants, receptionists, technicians, radiologists, business folks, nurses, navigators (What a thought!), phlebotomists, volunteers, social workers, injection and infusion specialists, transportation, administrators, counselors, nutritionists, everyone in the men’s cancer group. They have each and all made a huge difference to me,” he wrote in a thank-you letter to the hospital.
Mission Hope, Jimmy Jay said, was true to its name.
“To me, HOPE is the powerful spirit of wellness and dignity. It is the spirit of the superhero that wards off despair. Dignity arises out of being treated with respect and honesty, as well as with an emphasis on wellness as opposed to illness, and that is what I have always experienced at Mission Hope,” he wrote.
They were those experiences, provided by staff, which helped keep Powell on an even keel.
“A cancer diagnosis and the maze of treatments can cast a pall over your life and will tumble you into mental and emotional chaos without a dedicated, professional, and knowledgeable team. And one of the aspects that has made our Mission Hope experience so bearable is the great big loving hearts of everyone on our team,” Jimmy Jay wrote.
“Helping us cope with insecurity was the fact that at every turn my wife and I have received the information we need to proceed with knowledge and confidence rather than fear. The range of services offered at Mission Hope, as well as the referrals for outside assistance have been invaluable. Every time we stumbled someone was there (to) help us find our footing,” he continued.
Today, Jimmy Jay is focusing on healing, woodcarving, and continuing his writing, which includes “Showers of Diamonds, Harvest of Pearls,” and a new title just around the bend.
The Powells say there seems to be no adequate way to thank “the heroes of the healing and caring professions,” but he tried to put it to paper:
“You are the brightest lights in the room. We see you. You are felt. Your words, your touch, the sounds of your voices are not lost. Your spirits are deeply felt, though much of the work you do is unseen and unspoken,” he wrote in his thank-you letter.
“The caregiver must see beyond the appearances before him or her and each of you is an active participant in promoting life, health, hope, and healing. The sight of caring extends much further than the human eye can see. I cannot stop applauding you, and we are so grateful to have you on our team.
“The loving care and the dignity that you promote help make it bearable and more worthwhile for every soul-traveler on the journey we are making. May you continue to help us shine in this world and the next.
“You are the whole package. Plus a bag of chips!”