Early rounds have knocked the family down with several punches to the gut, but they continue to fight through the pain and the tears, get back up and come out swinging!! To this point there have been more downs for Craig and Stacie than ups, but I imagine that's the reality of this fight they're in. For those that don't know I wanted to share the history of what Craig, Stacie and the kids have endured the past couple of months.
This all started when Craig was forced to stop working back mid-June. He worked in the shop at NexGen Composites where he helped construct military pods. The physical nature of the work took it's toll on Craig ... specifically his knees and back which were in rough shape already. The back pain just became too much and he had to stop working. He visited chiropractors, but that offered minimal to no relief and was pretty much bed-ridden. Then in mid-July he coughed up some blood which they initially thought might be pneumonia from all the time spent lying down.
They had an CAT scan performed on Friday, July 20th, and that's when they initially saw the mass on Craig's lung. They immediately took Craig to the ER where he was transported later that day to Kettering Medical Center. At that point the oncologist (Dr. Calvo) and others began coordinating a flurry of tests including a full body MRI. Craig was in a tremendous amount of pain so a lot of focus was put on stabilizing Craig and getting the pain under control.
The MRI revealed that the tumor in his lung appeared to be inoperable given how close it was to the heart. It also showed that the cancer had metastasized to his left shoulder, spine, left hip and his left leg. The lone good news was that it did not appear to have spread to Craig's brain. The attention quickly turned to Craig's spine and left leg because this cancer, type still unknown at this point, was extremely aggressive and had caused significant bone deterioration in those regions.
They felt the best move would be to begin radiation on all the identified legions, which they started on that Monday and chemotherapy would be soon to follow once the lab results revealed what type of cancer this was. At this point they were told it was stage 4, non-small cell, lung cancer.
The neurosurgeon said the vertebrae in Craig's lower back were essentially hollow and surgery at this point would not be possible ... like putting screws in rotted wood was his analogy. Craig had next to no mobility given the weakness in his back and legs. They wanted to stabilize Craig's left leg which required a rod be inserted. That surgery went off without a hitch, and a couple days later Craig received a double-does of radiation to target a new legion on his sternum and was then discharged from the hospital after his initial 11 days in the hospital.
Patty and Terry ordered a hospital bed for Craig and we moved him to that after his 1st night home. Craig was not able to move much at all, and doing so requires a massive back brace and walker. The doctor's stressed the importance of the brace to keep Craig from making any undesired twists or stress on the spine because he was high risk for paralysis given the fragile state of his spinal column. They were to call the squad if he felt any numbness or tingling in his legs, feet or toes. Thankfully that has NOT be the case.
Getting Craig to and from radiation, his PET scan and his chemotherapy treatment was next on the list. If the cancer wasn't enough, just getting Craig in and out of the bed was physically and emotionally painful. A single step was almost too much. Relief came when their friend Steve Handy stepped up and built a ramp from their driveway to their front door! Steve, Terry, Todd and Garret worked all day on Saturday, August 4th and got it installed. It made getting Craig from the house to the car much easier!! On August 13th Craig completed what was supposed to be his final radiation treatment and rang the bell! They were then set for his first chemotherapy on the 16th.
Dr. Calvo finally had lab results back from the PET scan which revealed the cancer was a melanoma that had metastasized, and instead of chemotherapy they would do immunotherapy. Craig began infusions of an immunotherapy ... it essentially supercharges your immune system to go after rogue cancer cells in the body. They had a bed setup for Craig because he was so weak and was not able to sit up for more than 10 minutes. That day was especially tough on Craig because he was getting sick before and after the treatment, but they did receive word that the tumors had responded well to the radiation and had shrunk.
Spirits were definitely high, but the week that followed was one of the hardest yet. The next battle in this fight came with after effects from the radiation which caused damage to Craig's esophagus. Swallowing, eating and talking became extremely difficult, and the pain in his left shoulder grew stronger. Reaction to medications also caused a significant drop in Craig's blood pressure which landed him back in the hospital on August 21st.
This time Craig was in the hospital for 2 weeks while the doctor's worked out a new treatment plan that focused on his left shoulder. Craig was not able to walk so physical therapy was minimal, and complicated more with the pain in his left shoulder. They discussed rehab facilities, but with no insurance and medicaid pending they were not approved. They finally released Craig to go home on September 4th. Stacie, Garret, Tallie and the pups were happy to have him home!!
Craig was supposed to have his 2nd immunotherapy session on Sept. 7th, but the pain was too much and they had to reschedule and arrange for a paid medical transport service to get Craig to/from his session. Stacie is working daily with the doctor's and pain medication specialists to try and get Craig's pain under control. We will keep working with Craig to build up his strength and confidence so hopefully we can get him up out of the bed and outside from time-to-time. Gotta walk before you run!!!
I started this campaign because so many have reached out to our family to ask how they help, and some asked for a GoFundMe link so they could donate. Stacie was forced to stop working and watching her littles so she could care for Craig because he has no mobility and required 24x7 care. So with minimal income the family is fighting to pay household expenses month-to-month. Our intentions with the donations received are to use them towards household expenses (mortgage, electric, water, etc.), prescriptions and any of the therapy medical transport services.
Julie Beall, a very close friend of the Dudley family, was kind enough to setup a Meal Train site for those that wanted to offer support by providing meals from week-to-week. That filled up quick (booked through the end of September), so meals for the family are covered. There was a donation component to the Meal Train site that some already donated to and we can't thank them enough!! Moving forward we thought it would be best to utilize GoFundMe for future donations and updates.
So at this point the best way to help Craig and the family would be in the form of a donation they can use to help with their daily/monthly household expenses. We'll work to provide updates on Craig and the family on this campaign site, along with the Facebook Group page we setup. You can access the FB group using the following link:
Hope is very much alive with our family! There are good days, there are bad days, and then there are REALLY bad days. There will be smiles and there will be tears. We all know this will be a long fight, and the love and encouragement Craig, Stacie, Garret and Tallie have received from our family, friends and community has been inspiring and heartwarming.
From the bottom of our hearts we want to say thank you for all your prayers and support. So many have joined Craig's Fight Club ... the Dudley Army continues to grow and we truly can't thank you all enough!!!
Robb (Craig's Brother-in-law)
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