As many of you already know, Richard Sims (our Father) is currently fighting the biggest fight of his life. In the past few weeks, Richard (age 57) was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hepatocellular Carcinoma (liver cancer). His official diagnosis came on May 16, 2016, but Richard's story as it relates to the cancer, started a couple weeks before that. I know that we (Richard and his family) haven't had the chance to share all of the details with everyone, so we think it is important that we take that chance now and take all of you through the journey Richard and the rest of his family have been on up to this point.
Richard went to the ER at Sentara Regional Hospital in Williamsburg on Monday, May 2nd, 2016 due to uncontrolled pain on the right side of his abdomen. At the time, he thought the pain was due to kidney stones. As time went by that morning and the pain got worse, Richard knew something was very wrong and out of the "norm" for it to be pain relating to kidney stones because he had never felt this kind of pain before and unforunately, pain relating to kidney stones is a kind of pain he knows well. Richard was in so much pain that he could not drive himself to the hospital. Richard contacted us through a group text message telling us how much pain he was in and how he needed to go to the ER. At the time, I (Sara) was out of town in DC, so my sister (Chelsea) jumped to it and took our Dad to the ER. It was hours later, there in that ER, that we all first learned (including Richard) how grave the situation our Dad was facing.
The ER Doctor (Dr. Link) would order pain medicine and it wouldn't really help, which again was a clue to Richard that something was very wrong. Dr. Link would order test after test, scan after scan, and then she had to come in and tell our Dad and sister the results. Dr. Link proceeded to say that Richard had several large masses on his liver, some masses on both lungs, swelling in the center of his chest which was more than likely more masses in his lymph nodes. My sister (Chelsea) was updating us via text message as this news was being shared from Dr. Link. Chelsea also communicated that it was evident by Dr. Link's face that our Dad was facing a very serious diagnosis. Dr. Link was hesitant to say much more or definitively say it was "cancer", but upon discharging our Dad from the ER, she had already coordinated a biopsy of the liver for Richard, consulted with an Oncologist (Dr. Paschold) who would assume Richard's care, and had spoken with our Dad's Primary Care Doctor (Dr. Sessler) who would see Richard the very next day to go over everything a little more in detail while Richard waited to have the biopsy days later. My brother (Tyler) immediately left work that Monday morning to go be at the hospital with our Dad and sister once he heard from Chelsea what Dr. Link's diagnosis was for our Dad. Tyler would later drive Richard home so that Chelsea could take care of some errands that needed to be done for our Dad. We are very grateful to Dr. Link for being so thorough that day and going the extra step of getting everything coordinated for our Dad so that his follow-up care was expedited, and nothing slipped through the cracks.
Over the course of the next week or so, Richard would have many tests (including a biopsy), and many medical appointments. Each appointment and each test brought us a step closer to really being able to grasp what it was that Richard was facing. Everyone kept eluding to cancer and some would say, "yea, it is cancer...", but no one in the medical community wanted to go out on that limb alone until the biopsy was back. During one appointment with Richard's PCP (she has been his PCP for about 8 years), prior to getting the biopsy results, I (Sara) looked at Dr. Sessler and I asked her to please be upfront with us, that we really needed "fewer grey areas, and more black and white...". She looked at me and our Dad and said, "Richard's cancer is very serious. We don't know what kind of cancer it is yet or any of the answers to the "how" type questions, but Richard needs to get his affairs in order." You could hear a pin drop after she said those words. No matter how mentally prepared you try to be for these kinds of conversations, it is never enough. I know Richard and our entire family was still hoping that somehow it was all a big misunderstanding and that he didn't really have cancer, or that at least it wasn't as grave and serious as it was appearing to be to all the Doctors who had seen Richard up to this point.
As the next week or so went on, Richard had his liver biopsy and then went to see his Oncologist, Dr. Paschold on May 16th. At that appointment with Dr. Paschold, Richard's sister (Robin) and myself (Sara) were waiting with Richard for the "final word". It was during that appointment with Dr. Paschold that he shared with all of us the results (Hepatocellular Carcinoma) and that he regretfully was having to "stage" Richard's liver cancer as Stage 4 due to the fact that it had spread to multiple areas outside the liver. Dr. Paschold went on to explain this specific kind of cancer and he tried to answer any questions we had to the best of his ability. In this same appointment, Dr. Paschold told us that Richard's cancer was not curable, that it in fact is terminal. He went on to explain why Richard did not qualify for a liver transplant (and possibly some other treatments) due to the cancer being Stage 4. Dr. Paschold recommended that Richard start chemotherapy right away and then also see a liver specialist at VCU. Dr. Paschold was reluctant to put any timeframes to our Dad's prognosis, but what he would say on record was that if Richard did nothing (i.e., no chemo, no other treatments per the Hepatologist), then Richard would probably not live much past 3-6 months. Dr. Paschold said with chemo and other treatments, he was "optimistic" that Richard could "buy more time". A part from those interventions he listed, it would be about ensuring the best quality of life for Richard, for as long as possible. Even though we had an idea about how bad the situation was for our Dad prior to going in that day, it did not soften the blow for our Dad or the rest of the family. That was really the first day of a new reality that Richard and the rest of our family would now live in.
In spite of the bad news, Richard is fighting this head on. He wants to fight, and he wants to live. As his children, we also want that for him. We cannot imagine a life without him. As our Dad is going through chemotherapy and doing what needs to be done to fight this cancer, as his family, we are doing anything and everything we can to help him fight AND ensure that every minute he is here with us, is the epitome of "quality".
For those of you who know Richard, you KNOW he would give the shirt off his back to someone who needed it. Literally!! One of the things that always stood out to me (Sara) about our Dad was not that he was all of these great things or would do all of these great things for his family and friends, but that he would treat everyone the same. It didn't matter if you were his best friend or a homeless man on the corner of a street in Richmond, VA. If you needed something and Richard could give it to you, he would. No questions asked. Our Dad is by far the most generous, compassionate, and non-judgmental person we have ever known, and there are a lot of people who agree with us!
Another thing you may or may not know about Richard, is that he moved in with his Mother 3 years ago to help take care of her, as she was suffering from advanced Alzheimer's and she couldn't be left alone for long periods of time anymore due to safety reasons. Richard moved in with MeMa (our Grandmother, his Mother) because he knew that if he didn't, she would have to be placed in a facility for her safety and he had promised MeMa many years ago that as long as he was alive and could do anything about it, he would always keep her at home as she wished and he would never place MeMa in a facility. Our Dad ALWAYS honored his word, no matter what the cost was to him. The many sacrifices and good deeds that we ALL know to be true of Richard is only a fraction of why he deserves us ALL to rally around him right now as he fights. Richard would do anything for anyone, and expect nothing in return. He would do, do, do for someone and not want any recognition or accolades, ever! Richard did (and continues to do so) these things out of the goodness of his heart.
Richard is a tremedous Father to us kids and a loyal friend to all. Richard has also been an incredibly hard worker his whole life. He has always worked and never relied on anyone else to take care of him. Again - another reason why he deserve us all to rally around him right now as he fights. We all could go on and on about the many reasons why Richard deserves everyone's support right now, but we don't need to because everyone one of us and most of you reading this right now, have personally been touched in a positive way by Richard and/or you know someone who has been personally touched in a positive way by Richard, and that is why we are asking for your help on his behalf.
Richard has many obstacles in front of him as he continues to fight cancer and fight for his life. One rather big obstacle being that he had recently switched employers less than a year ago (previous employer, he was there for 17 years) because the field work was too much on his body after all of those years. So even though it pained him to leave somewhere he referred to as "home", he needed to make the switch and went to work with a previous employer in an office setting. He LOVED his new job and he LOVED the people he was working with. It had really made a big difference for him physically, as he dealt with many physical ailments from all the long hours his body dealt with, as his job was to be in the field a lot, doing a lot of traveling and hard labor at times. With that switch came a pay cut, which at the time was ok because Richard had his "plan". However, that plan did NOT consist of getting terminal cancer and especially not within his first year of his new job. With all of that said, his new employer unfortunately didn't have any type of short or long-term diability for Richard to take, and his health insurance that was provided by his new employer was canceled at the end of May due to him being unable to work. Unfortunately, because all of this happened so quickly, we have not had adequate time and/or resources to come up with a solution, so it has resulted in Richard currently having NO active health insurance and that is a massive problem. We are in the process of assessing whether we should use our current limited resources to pay out of pocket for COBRA or wait for some other avenues to open up. We are working diligently with different social workers and patient advocates to try and remedy this problem as fast as possible. We would like to make it very clear that in no way do we or Richard have any ill feelings toward his employer. Our Dad LOVES the company, his boss, and colleagues. It just happened to be a "perfect storm" of unfortunate circumstances that created this problem for Richard and we all recognize that.
The timing is just awful, not that there is really ever a good time to get cancer. Richard is without any income currently or health insurance. We have filed for Social Security Disability, but we are being told it could be early Fall before he ever sees a penny of it. The Doctors he needs to see and medications he has to take total in the thousands to tens of thousands every month. It is no exaggeration. Then you add in his normal bills that everyone has month to month. Also, because of Richard's condition, he can't be left alone for long periods of time. So primarily it is either my sister (Chelsea) or myself (Sara) that is with our Dad, caring for him and taking him to his appointments, etc. We are a small immediate family, so the amount of people we have to really help take care of Richard is very limited.
With that said, because we are 100% committed to the care of our Father, and because he deserves nothing less than his family being able to be by his side every moment to help him in any way possible, to help give him the strength to fight cancer, that has resulted in my sister (Chelsea) being unable to work and I (Sara) having to take FMLA from my job (hopefully just on an intermittent basis, going to try reducing my hours as we go through this season, but at any point it could be total FMLA leave). I (Sara) have used up all of my paid leave time that was accrued to this point over the past few weeks. So now, in addition to Richard having a lack of income, we are also facing similar lack of income issues, and that is a problem as we are the ones now paying for the necessary things that our Dad needs and the bills that have to be paid ongoing. Then there are future costs that will come into play if our Dad does pass, and it is our Dad's wishes that he have a traditional funeral and is buried; he does not want to be cremated. Thus we are hoping we can honor his wishes to provide a funeral, plot, and headstone with donated monies.
I could go on and on listing the massive amount of financial need there currently is for Richard directly and indirectly, but for the most part you all know what it costs these days to fight cancer and most of you have probably been there or know someone who has. It breaks my heart that during a time where money should be the last thing you have to worry about, it is one of the top 3 things my Dad is worrying about as I write this; as well as us, his family...we are equally worried about being able to give our Father everything he could possibly need and/or desire during this time.
A lot of you have asked us and Richard what you can do to help. Well here are some suggestions we have:
1. First of all, your love and prayers are most important. Honest to God! Richard really needs to feel that love and support, so please feel free to call or come by the house. It might be best to plan a time if you wanted to come by the house, but PLEASE do so. You can call my cell number, Sara at [phone redacted] to make any plans to come by. Richard needs to feel the love and support from all who care about him. It would do him a lot of good mentally and emotionally, which we all know those 2 areas play a big part on how we can feel physically.
2. Giving anything you can financially. We know that it is a tough time for everyone these days and we really hate to even ask, and Richard really hates to ask! But it is necessary to ensure he is cared for and has what he needs to fight cancer. No amount is too small, and we assure you all that it will be properly used. We ask at this time that any money you all want to give to Richard, to please donate it in this fund, or call me on my cell at [phone redacted]. Please refrain from giving Richard any money directly at this time, as we don't want it lost as a result of the confusion our Dad is dealing with as a side effect of the medication and cancer.
3. If anyone is interested in making meals, that would also be a blessing. It is important he eats! I have been the one making dinner for him, and it would free up some much needed time for me to do other things for our Dad that need my attention.
4. If anyone has any medical equipment in good condition or a reclining rocking chair that you are giving away or selling for a good deal, we are in the process of trying to anticipate all of my Dad's needs and don't want to wait until the need is present and we are scrambling for what he needs, especially when cash flow is tight.
5. Also, PLEASE, EVERYONE, who has pictures of my Dad, no matter what age or season of life he was in, please e-mail them to me at [email redacted]
6. If you know of any other resources that Richard, or us who are caring for him can look into that would possibly be able to help take some of the financial burden off, please share their contact information with me.
At the end of the day, anything you can do, is GREATLY appreciated. Honestly, Richard and all of us are so eternally grateful for all of you who have shown such an outpouring of love to him and the rest of the family. It is truly mind blowing and we are so grateful. This is the hardest thing Richard or our family have gone through and there isn't an hour that goes by that one of us doesn't cry because of how much is at stake here. We are trying to do EVERYTHING we can to help our Dad (Richard) not only win this fight, but also be as comfortable and stress-free as possible.
We love our Dad to the moon and back. We cannot imagine life without him. Richard has a lot of IMMEDIATE need on a lot of different levels right now, and I pray that all of you (even some who might be strangers) can find it in your heart to help Richard and our family out in any way you can. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this all. We wanted to be sure everyone had the full scoop. We will be setting up a Facebook group for all of you who are interested in receiving regular updates on Richard's progress. If anyone has any questions, please feel free to contact me via cell phone or e-mail (listed above in this story), or contact my sister (Chelsea) as well.
On behalf of my Dad, thank you all so very much! We really appreciate everyone's support during this time.
Sara, Tyler, and Chelsea Sims
(Children of Richard Sims)