Friends in need

Two young Chicoans need the community’s help

I feel like I’m connected in a small way to each of the people I’ve written about over the years, even after the ink dries and the paper yellows. I’m sure I’ll feel that way after this week’s issue is pulled from the racks. That’s because I’m writing about two people I met through my work at CN&R who could really use the community’s help.

One of them is Mazi Noble, a contributing writer and talented former CN&R designer who now works at Chico State. Mazi recently wrote a guest commentary about what it’s like being a black man in America—and Chico in particular. He started a dialogue about local race relations—the kind of thing most people don’t like to talk about. I admire his candor on the subject.

But more than that, I admire the man. Working with him day in and day out, I got to know someone who was a dedicated father and loving husband.

Last month, at 36 years old, Mazi suffered a hemorrhagic stroke. That happened while he was on vacation in the Bay Area, not far from Stanford Medicine, where he underwent brain surgery. Mazi is now recuperating at home. He’s doing well, under the circumstances, but his recovery could take up to a year. That’s rough for someone who’s his family’s primary provider. A crowdfunding page ( has been set up to lessen the burden on this young, vibrant member of the community and his family.

The other person I hope Chico will rally around is Mandy Johnston. I met Mandy briefly out on the town many years ago. We had a lot of mutual friends. Fast-forward to 2012 and I contacted Mandy, then 31 and married just a few years earlier, under professional circumstances; I asked if I could write a story about her battle with cervical cancer. I’d found out about it after stumbling across her amazingly well-written, informative and poignant blog on the subject ( I read every entry and I knew I had to talk to her again.

So, I set up an interview and we chatted while eating bagels on her lovely front porch. She was just as gracious and funny and sweet as one would assume from reading about her journey, from diagnosis through treatment, both chemo and radiation.

At the time, I was struggling with a medical issue, and just days after that interview underwent surgery to remove what ended up being a large and painful but benign uterine tumor. Mandy had just finished her last cancer treatment and, amazing person she is, contacted me offering support. My recovery took several weeks, and by the time I got back to work, my notes had gone cold. I never got around to writing about her—until now.

Mandy’s cancer has returned. And her new battle is intense. You can read more about it at the crowdfunding site her employers at Six Degrees Coffee have set up for their beloved colleague: Mandy is the sort of person who helps strangers. I hope that kindness is returned to her in her time of need.