This is the O'Grady family, Dad, Rick, Mom, Rochelle, kids Evan, Shawn, and Lilly. (not pictured daughter Ash'Lynn).
In two short years, their lives have been turned upside down with Rick and Rochelle each receiving a devastating cancer diagnosis. Please help this family keep from selling their home and moving their children out of their schools to a smaller place once Rick is forced to go on disability. They have no life insurance and Rochelle has been unable to work because if she has to pay childcare for Lilly most of her paycheck is gone and if she works at night, Rick is in so much pain he is unable to care for Lilly and is usually in bed by 8:00 to be able to get up and go to work the next day.
In November, 2012, at the age of 48, Rick, who had been having some intestinal issues, went for a colonoscopy. Fifteen minutes into the procedure, the doctor came out and told Rochelle he wanted to talk to both her and Rick. It was then he told them the devasting news...Rick had a tumor in his colon/anal region that was blocking the scope from going more that 18 cm into Rick's intestines. The doctor referred him to an oncologist and surgeon and that is when the nightmare began. After an 8 hour surgery to remove the tumor, (procedure was supposed to be 5-6 hours), the doctor was able to remove the tumor and save him from a colostomy but the bad news was the cancer had already burst out of the intestine and spread to the liver (which the surgeon was able to cauterize and remove most of the tumor), lungs, and 16 out of 24 lymph nodes. It was considered stage 4. Rick would need 12 rounds of chemo. The plan was, after 6 rounds of chemo treatments, Rick would have another surgery to remove the liver tumor. After a 4 week recovery, Rick began chemo treatments every three weeks beginning in January 2013. The treatments left him with debilitating exhaustion and he was unable to get out of bed the first few days after the treatment. He developed a diffetent side effect after every treatment (severe vertigo, allergic reaction with a painful rash, severe diarrhea, neuropathy in his hands and feet, dry painful cracks in his skin on his hands) He was able to use accumulated sick days to keep the family income coming in (he is the only breadwinner). He works for the road/water department for the city of Bellbrook plowing snow when necessary, keeping streets maintained and sometimes reading water meters. Because of the intestinal surgrey, plowing snow that winter was impossible for him due to the pain of being bounced around in the cab of the snow plow so he did smaller jobs around the city. After 6 months of chemo, Rick had another PET scan and it was determined surgery was not needed to remove the liver tumor. It had shrunk to almost non exisitent.
In March of 2013 Rochelle, age 40, felt a lump in her breast. This did not alarm her too much because she had had a mammogram in October of 2012 that was clear. She had another mammogram and biopsy and was diagnosed with Stage IIB invasive breast cancer. The family was DEVASTATED. How much could one family take? They had little ones to raise. Lilly, who was 4 at the time, Shawn, who was 12, and Evan, who was 15. Daughter Ash'Lynn, 20, was living on her own. In April 2013 , Rochelle had a double mastectomy. Fortunately, her cancer had not spread to the lymph nodes but the tumor was rather large and an agressive type. After a 4 week recovery period, Rochelle began 8 rounds of hemo treatments and her first treatment was with husband Rick receiving his chemo treatment. This is NOT something you want to share with your husband/wife. Although Rochelle lost all of ther hair and was exhausted, she did not suffer the debilitating side effects from chemo that Rick did.
After 12 rounds of chemo, in June 2013, Rick was determined to be in remission. No new active tumors! By August of 2013, he began having stomach pains and went back to the doctor....new tumors were showing up in his omentum which is a layer of peritoneum that surrounds abdominal organs. This is not an area that they can operate and remove so it was back to chemo but this time it was weekly. In the meantime, Rochelle finished her treatments and was also declared in remission. In December, 2013, Rochelle posted this letter to Santa:
I'm writing this letter to you not asking for material things: like a new purse, diamond earrings, or a new car (don't get me wrong I'd love all of those things!) instead I'm asking for things much harder to acquire.
I'm asking for better health this year, not only for me but especially for my husband. See Santa, we were both diagnosed with cancer five months apart this year. My husband with diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic colorectal cancer and I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. We have four children and would like to continue to see them grow, mature, graduate, go to college, get married and have children of their own.
I'm asking for continued patience. Sometimes when life throws you a curve ball it's hard to not want things resolved now! I've learned a great deal of patience this year and it's a wonderful virtue to have accepted. In a world of “trying to get places five minutes faster,” or “the grocery line is too long,” or “the person in front of you is taking forever,” I learned that those things don't really matter and most things in life are worth the wait.
I'm asking for a great sense of humor . On the days when my husband and I went to the infusion center to get chemo together, we could only say, “the couple who shares chemo together, stays together.” I also shared the same hair style as my husband- bald. I want to never loose my sense of humor. Some days that's just the way you have to look at things and then say, “isn't that ironic!” People are way to serious Santa...life is to precious to be so serious. It's a scientific fact that laughter lessens stress and if you have less stress you have a better immune system!
I wish that a serious illness didn't push people out of my life or my husbands. I know some people don't know how to react or talk to someone with the big “C” , but little do they know...that is when someone needs you the most. A little empathy goes a long way.
On the opposite hand of that statement, Santa, I wish everyone could experience the complete and random acts of kindness we have experienced from strangers. The kinds words, wishes and prayers from people that I never knew. This is what life, love and humanity is all about. We need to appreciate what God has given us...LIFE....never take it for granted. We're so busy in this short life with jobs, phones, the Internet, sports, shopping and just random STUFF that don't really matter if your loved one isn't here to share it with you.
I hope the people that have been in our lives directly over the last year, know how much we love and appreciate them.
I hope that our positive attitude makes an impact on the people we meet. You CAN get through anything in life . Don't sweat the small things.
I wish that everyone could experience God's grace. God has been so good to us this year. Yes! As ironic as it sounds, with our journey over the last year, he has brought wonderful blessings in our lives. He has returned people in our hearts that have changed us into stronger, gentler, more patient, loving, understanding, humble and faithful people.
I wish for a less scary and a happier life for my children. Santa, they've been through an awful lot this year, more than most for kids their age. They've handled our situation like troopers and deserve the best! Children shouldn't have to deal with such traumatic experiences, especially times two...with both parents. They shouldn't have to worry about cancer, chemo, surgeries, sickness and death. With all the ups and downs this year, they still go on and try to be “kids”.
I dream of the day when my husband has a clear PET scan and remains cancer free. He amazes me everyday with his strength and courage. He continues to work full-time despite weekly chemo treatments and all his fatigue. He's a remarkable man and has been an inspiration to me when I was diagnosed. I defiantly couldn't wallow in self pity after watching everything he's gone through.
One more thing Santa.....I wish for a CURE! I'm extremely grateful for the wonderful doctors, nurses and hospitals that we have here in Dayton. I dream of the day when cancer doesn't dictate our future or anyone else's. I continue to hope for the day when I can tell my kids that they don't have to worry about us anymore and that everything is going to be OK.
We want to LIVE and continue to be inspired by LIFE!
Rick & Rochelle
Rochelle's next hurdle was facing reconstruction which she was told would be a 3 month recovery-very difficult with a then 5 year old at home who doesn't understand why mommy AND daddy are both sick. But in January 2014, Rochelle underwent reconstruction surgery.If not for Rochelle's parents, Diane and Jerry Harden, they would have had an even more difficult road to follow. Diane moved in with the O'Gradys to help take care of both Rick and Rochelle. Thank goodness for family!
Rick endured weekly chemo treatments from August 2013 to June 2014 with only a few weeks break during that time. Every other week, Rick had a pump of an additional chemo med that that remained attached to him for 36 hours after his weekly chemo treatment. He then went back to have the pump removed. "Pump weeks" were debilitating for Rick and he spent the entire weekend in bed. Others were not always so understanding of the total exhaustion Rick endured. He tried his best to be at work as much as he could and to not ask for specical treatment because of his condition.
In July of 2014, Rick went on chemo pills which he takes eveyday for a week then off for a week. The pills have less side effects. In November of 2014 Rick began having pains in his stomach again and abdominal swelling. A trip back to the doctor who wanted to have a PET scan (to see if there were any "hot" spots of cancer growing again) performed but Rick's insurance would not approve it. After a week in horrific pain, the doctor ordered a less expensive CT scan, which the insurance would allow. This showed another tumor in the liver which was causing the swelling and pain in his abdomin. The insurance company would not approve an increase in the dosage of his weekly chemo pills-they wanted him to have a less costly infusion treatment that the doctor did not recommend, but ended up approving. Rick became extremely sick after only 30 minutes of the infusion so the insurance company relented and allowed the increase in dosage of the chemo pill. The doctor also now thinks the tumors are active again in his omentum.
Please consider helping this family keep their home for their children so they do not have to switch schools. Evan is a junior in high school and Shawn is in the 7th grade. Both difficult times in their lives to switch schools and have to make new friends in a new school with so much going on at home.
We thank you in advance for your willingness to read this and help us.
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