Cancer Sucks, And So Do Bill’s Bills

My family has never been very good at sharing stories about themselves. We always were told to not talk about ourselves and our problems outside of the home, because "everyone has their own problems to deal with," and "there's always someone else who has had it worse," and "we've been blessed in so many ways", and "it's important to remain and look strong". Yes, while all of these things may be true, sometimes it's okay to let others in. Sometimes it's necessary. Sometimes, when you think your family has been through enough bad to last a lifetime, you feel so blindsided that you need to reach out and ask for help, and share your story, or you'll drown. On Friday, March 23, 2018, after my 29 year old twin brother told me that he was diagnosed with cancer, I knew that now was the time for me to finally share our family's story and reach out for help. Now, more than ever, we need the help of others to remain strong through this time, as my brother battles cancer, and as I watch yet another person whom I love go through this fight. This page is for my brother while he battles cancer. But in order to fully understand who we are, who he is, I want to tell our whole story, from the beginning. Since I’m terrible at dealing with emotional issues when speaking to others, and even worse at opening up enough to appear vulnerable or weak, writing is the only and best way that I know how to tell the most raw, honest story of our lives, from my eyes, anyway. Only after I pour my heart out onto this webpage can I humbly ask for everyone’s help during this difficult time, because we need kindness and support to help us endure this battle, once again.  So here I go.

The profile picture on this website shows my twin brother, Bill, and I on Christmas morning, 2011. My brother and I have witnessed so much illness and death for our age, in my opinion, but this two-minute-older dude and I have preserved and have had each other’s backs during the hardest times.. and although you'd think I'd have learned better by now, I never once imagined that the person with whom I shared my mother’s womb may also fall victim to, and be forced to stand up against my #1 enemy, whom I shall name here for theatrical literary purposes, The Cancer Villain. 

This Villain first invited himself into our home when my brother and I were four years old, and it has taunted us continually with each passing year since then. On July 15, 1993, the day after her 41st birthday, our mother was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia, and was given a 50% chance to live. For three months following that, she lived in Columbus, Ohio, going through chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, fighting to survive. We were not allowed to see her other than through her window, because kids just generally carry more germs than adults, and her immune system was too low to risk being in close proximity of us. I don't remember much since we were so young at the time, but I do remember standing outside of the Columbus hospital, looking up at the hospital room window and being told to wave hello to her. Our older sister, at age 15, was forced to step into the role of the mother of two very confused and upset kids. She was too young to have to grow up so soon, but she did anyway, and she took on the responsibility beautifully, with the help of many supportive family members and friends. We were lucky to have such a strong and loving sister with us during that scary time. In the end and by some miracle, our mother survived, and was finally able to come home, but the road to recovery was not quick or fun for her, as she was forced to remain isolated from us for three more long months, where she resided next door at my grandmother's house, waving to us from her bedroom window. She told me a few years back that for a very long time, I was afraid of her and wouldn't say hi to her, because I didn’t recognize this bald stranger trying to comfort me. I cannot imagine how awful that must have been for her. After spending two more years in recovery mode, she was finally allowed to go back to work. She remained in remission for years and life was mostly back to normal for us. Then, nine years after her first diagnosis, in 2002, the Villain came knocking on our family’s door once more, and with it he brought back her Leukemia. Because of her age and her body already having endured the harshness of chemotherapy before, it was decided that chemo a second time may end up killing her before the cancer could, and so she was put on a medication, called Gleevec, that keeps her white blood cell count under control, but does not ever rid her body of the cancer that has already manifested inside of her. To present day today, she lives each day with Leukemia, but you would never be able to tell if you saw her. She lives life to the fullest and looks healthy, on the outside, at least. It has been a little over 15 years now, and her body continues to accept the drugs. While this is amazing news, the thought and terror associated with the idea that one day her body will become immune to the drug and she will have to start a new regimen and hope that it is successful in keeping the cancer at bay is constantly in the back of our minds.. like a ticking time bomb, we all are waiting at a standstill, not knowing when the timer will go off... but until then, we live life in the moment and appreciate the time that we have together. She truly is the strongest person I know. And the Villain remained in the background, planting his feet in our home, while we went on with our lives, trying to forget about him, the best that we could.

As if worrying about our mother for most of our lives wasn't bad enough, our unwanted and unwelcome Villain decided that he didn't want to remain in the background any longer, and so he chose another member of our family to target, and this time it was our dad, which took us all by total and utter surprise. This news came to us in summer of 2014, when my dad complained of a stomachache one day and brushed it off, thinking it was gall stones again, a problem he struggled with from time to time throughout the years. None of us even questioned it, because it made perfect sense. So he scheduled a doctors appointment for what he thought was stones, only to find out one September afternoon that he had Stage 4 cancer in the stomach region, but with no way of knowing the origin of the cancer since it had already spread throughout his entire abdominal area. My own Daddy, the very same man whom I’ve never even known to have a cold before, was dying, and it was all happening out of the blue and very quickly. When you are used to worrying about one ill parent your entire life, you forget to even consider the idea that something bad could also happen to the other. We were all in total shock. My dad especially. He thought he was going to live forever. He used to joke about it, except I guess I sort of actually believed him, because there was just no way the Villain would come for both parents... it was just absurd to even think such a horrible thought! Going through my dad’s battle with cancer was when I finally came to realize that it’s not the actual devastation that rips your heart into pieces, it’s the hope that we all blindly and ignorantly cling onto, even when we all know what’s coming in the end, but no one wants to say it out loud. We just wanted to believe that maybe, by another miracle, he would just one day wake up better or his cancer would start reversing and one day he'd be completely healed. The masochistic games our minds play on us when we just don't want to handle the truth are truly impressive. Even when I thought I was mentally ready for the end to come, I learned that you can genuinely never prepare for the loss of a loved one.. and my dad was, and still is, my world. My brother and I had more amazing adventures with him than most people have in a lifetime with their parents, and for that I am deeply grateful, but it doesn’t take away or even lessen the pain and sadness I still feel 3.5 years after his passing. After only a short 10 weeks of being diagnosed, on November 22nd, 2014, our father passed away in the middle of the night, just moments after my mom decided to finally shut her eyes to rest for a minute or two in my dad’s hospital room. He waited for her to fall asleep, and then he left us, not wanting any of us to have to watch him go, protecting us until his last minute of life on this earth. Typical Dad move. I will never forget that morning and the phone call I received from my mother, or how cold it was that day, snowing and icy and miserable. After the call, I remember running outside and sitting down in the freezing cold snow. I still don’t know if I became numb from the weather or from the inside out, but probably both. I was the one who made the call to my sweet, loving brother. He wouldn’t even answer the phone for so long, because he knew there was only one reason I'd be calling so early, and he wasn’t ready to hear it. It was the saddest day of my life so far, and that sadness remains just as strong now as it did on that day. My brother and my dad were best friends and did everything together. While I was his little baby princess, those two were two peas in a pod. My heart broke most for Bill on that sad, awful day that changed our lives and hearts forever. On that day, the Villain moved back into the background, and allowed us some time to grieve.

With all bad comes some good, as that is the natural order of things. Before our dad passed away, we were introduced to our older half brother, Dan, who we never knew we had. In the last weeks of his life, Dan and my dad bonded as they should have for the last 43 years of Dan's life. It’s unfortunate that certain situations don’t always happen the way that you think they should, but my dad's death brought Dan's family into our lives, and if there was any small blessing hidden within that tragic event, it was this. Even though he was not raised by my dad, it is crazy to watch Dan as he mimics mannerisms of our father without even knowing that he's doing it. It truly is crazy how that all works. I am so happy to have him and his family in our lives now, as he has helped carry on and strengthen our father's memory, even in times when things were looking very dark and bleak for me. I will be forever grateful of this.

As the years went by, we all adapted to life without our dad. Not a day goes by that I don't miss him, and it never "gets better" as the years pass, as so many people used to tell me. Time does not actually heal all wounds, but rather, you just become better at dealing with the pain. And though I'll never agree, our Villain decided that enough time had passed to emerge front and center back into our lives and demand attention once more. This time, my twin brother became the target.

On March 23, my brother told me that he was diagnosed with cancer. Early prognosis was Hodgkin's Lymphoma, which has a very good survival rate, and so even though this was devastating news for my family, everyone seemed hopeful that this cancer would be cured and over with quickly and easily. Me, being the dark and dreary one, saw the familiar glimmer of hope in everyones’ voices and silently waited for the other shoe to drop. This drop occurred when we received Bill's final results. While he does, in fact, have Hodgkin's Lymphoma, he also has non-Hodgkin's Large B-cell Lymphoma, as well. Who knew you could have two different types at one time? I don't know why I continue to be surprised by this kind of news, but I do. This news came to him on Friday, April 6th, and on Tuesday, April 10th, they will put a port into his chest and then begin the first of multiple, aggressive rounds of 144-hour long chemotherapy the following day (04/11/18). He will then get 15 days of rest and recuperation, then the next 144-hour chemo will begin. During this time, all that we can do is wait and hope and pray, and then hope and wait and pray some more.

Here is what I want to come from me telling our story: During this time, I want Bill to focus on nothing but fighting this cancer. During this time, I don't want him to stress about the hospital bills piling up, or about the normal, everyday bills piling up, or about whether or not he will have a job after all of this, or about ANYTHING AT ALL. I want him to focus on getting better and staying postive through this crappy hand of cards he's been dealt. So this is why I've started this GoFundMe page as he begins his first round of chemo. It is my hope and goal that after this first 144 hours of what I can only imagine to be a traumatic, terrifying and lonely experience, I can surprise my brother and ease a bit of his stress by showing him this website and showing him cold, hard cash donated to him to help him afford bills and daily living expenses while he conquers this Villain! My hope is that through this page and the donations coming in to support him, he will see all of the people that are there for him and for our family, and that will give him the extra boost of courage and strength that he may at some point need during this battle to want to continue on. Do you think you can help me with that? Anything, no matter the amount, I believe will truly help, and will also touch all of my family’s hearts forever. In addition, I know that it will help Bill stay positive as he views this page and all of the donations from all of you amazing supporters. I know that he will be touched deeply by the goodness of people that want to help and support him. I plan to withdraw the funds and help him figure out bills while I am with him during his second round of chemo, and then I’d like to start paying whatever billers he decides need paid off, from highest priority to least priority. That way, he will just be able to focus on healing, while my mom and I pay his bills with the help of your donations, and it is my hope that when he completes his final round of chemo he will not have to worry about mass amounts of bills that are either past due or due ASAP. I think that he will truly benefit enormously from your donations and my family’s efforts to deal with the billers now so that he won’t have to later.

Please show your support for my brother during this difficult time, and help him fight through this battle against our longtime enemy, so we can put this Villain back into the shadows for good, where he belongs.

My love and sincerest gratitude goes out to all of those who are reading this,

Sincerely,


Katie Egger


Here some more photos of us if you still feel like scrolling :)


















Donations

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  • Robrty Ficklin 
    • $100 
    • 33 mos
  • Anonymous 
    • $100 
    • 33 mos
  • Allen Gausman  
    • $20 
    • 33 mos
  • Seth Streich 
    • $20 
    • 33 mos
  • Kevin and Ally 
    • $50 
    • 33 mos
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Organizer

Katie Mary 
Organizer
Pine Township, PA
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