Usually when you hear roommate stories, they’re preceded by the adjective “horror” — everything from the demanding freshman-year dorm roommates to the ones who find…creative uses for your things. It’s enough to make a person want to live alone forever.
Brice Royer, though, still wants a roommate. But not just any garden-variety roommate: he’s looking for a compassionate roommate. And he’ll pay to find one.
“Compassionate roommate” is a term Royer came up with on his own. But to understand what exactly it means, you have to go back to 2012, when he was diagnosed with stomach cancer.
As Royer explained to Uproxx, “One doctor told me that love and kindness was the best medicine. So I took it to heart. I looked at the studies and I was convinced.” Royer was also struggling with depression and loneliness at the time, and decided that he didn’t want to go the traditional route of treating his cancer with chemotherapy or surgery. “I was more interested in finding the cause of the cancer rather than treating the symptoms.” The only problem with the love and kindness recommendation: Royer couldn’t just go out and buy them at the pharmacy.
And so he came up with his own plan of treatment. “I thought that maybe if I gave [love] away unconditionally, without expecting anything in return…I may also experience unconditional love.”
That’s when Royer put out an ad on Craigslist, offering unconditional love for the low low price of $0.“I basically just wrote what was in my heart,” he told Uproxx. The ad went viral, receiving over one million views and an incredible response from the community. After the ad, Royer realized he was onto something, and decided to start performing one random act of kindness every day — everything from offering lunch at his home to giving hugs on the street, all to complete strangers. “Each time I would do that, my heart would grow four times bigger. I felt so connected, so much love as I was giving it away.”
Royer began to feel happier than he ever had before, even when he was healthy. Fast-forward to April of this year, a full year after posting his original Craigslist ad, and Royer’s MRI showed that the tumor had shrunk. “My doctor was really shocked. He said it’s not explainable.” Now, he tells us he’s cancer-free.
“I’m not saying that love cures cancer,” Royer said. “But for me, it made me happier than I’ve ever been.”
Happy though he may be, Royer is still recuperating physically from the effects of the disease. Which is where the compassionate roommate bit comes in. Inspired by nursing homes that offer free housing to students to come and live with the residents, Royer once again took to Craigslist, offering to pay $1,500 a month in exchange for a roommate who would be around to help cook for him and stay with him overnight.
“I don’t need personal care so much,” Royer explained. “When I do, I have my own personal caregivers — family and friends, also, who are rotating to help me with personal care. But what I really need is a roommate to keep me company and sometimes also give me a helping hand…somebody who is a professional roommate, and has compassion, and can just keep me company and sometimes cook dinner at 5:30 p.m.”
His ad once again went viral, receiving over 200 responses from people all over the world who were up for the task of being his roommate. Friends have already helped him sort out the candidates, because, as he says, “It’s surprisingly hard to find a roommate. Especially somebody who’s the right fit — personality-wise, schedule-wise. It’s kind of like dating!”
From the pool of applicants, Royer has already picked a potential roommate, a woman named Alexandra, who is already several days into a one-week trial. “We’re still getting to know each other and see if it’s the right fit,” he said.
Whether or not Alexandra works out in the end, Royer doesn’t want to abandon the other hundreds of candidates who sent in their information. Now, his next act of kindness is to arrange group meet-up, so everyone who applied can meet each other and come up with ways they can help people, not just Royer. “Hopefully my struggle can be turned into something positive that’s meaningful for other people as well.”