'Modern Family' 's Eric Stonestreet Opens Up About Mother Jamey Surviving Cancer: 'The Key Is Hope'

The star and his mom are teaming up to raise awareness for Ready. Raise. Rise.

Photo: Courtesy Eric Stonestreet

Modern Family‘s Eric Stonestreet and his mother Jamey are making something good out of one of the most challenging times for their family.

The pair are participating in this year’s Ready. Raise. Rise. campaign, which raises awareness of immuno-oncology research by asking people to raise a flag for those affected by cancer. It’s a personal cause for both of them, as Jamey survived two cancer diagnoses in 2001.

“When the word cancer makes its way into your life, it can be a devastating moment, like there’s nothing can be done. But more than ever there is something that can be done,” Eric, 44, tells PEOPLE. “We’re making big giant strides and even small steps in making cancer more survivable.”

Jamey was diagnosed with uterine cancer in summer 2011, and just months after surviving it, doctors found a mass on her kidney.

“If I hadn’t had the first one, they might not have seen the second one, which they told me could have been too late,” says Jamey. “Sometimes things come in funny ways. I do feel somebody was watching over me, not only my daily calls from my kids, but there was a higher power taking care of me.”

Eric says for patients or families affected by cancer, “the key is hope.”

When his mother was diagnosed, he was already living in Los Angeles, and being far away from his parents in the Kansas City, Missouri area added to his worry.

“It was a bad and lonely feeling being so far away from parents,” he says. “Even if I could have or would have needed to move home in that moment, they wouldn’t have wanted me to. They were very supportive of my career. So my support came in the form of daily calls. I don’t think I missed a day where we didn’t talk.”

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Jamey credits Eric with being able to use humor to keep things light during her treatments.

“I like to dress challenges with humor. It helps me get through things rather than focusing on the sad,” she says.

For more on their work, visit the Ready. Raise. Rise. campaign.

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