Saturday, September 14, 2013

Things Are Happening

Hello folks,
The age when we dressed him up in dresses,
though there conveniently aren't any
pictures of that.
Kevin and his mom, 1991
          True to the title of this post, things are happening. It’s hard to believe that less than three weeks ago, I sat in my car in the parking lot of the grocery store, trying to process the news my mother told me: Hepatosplenic T-cell Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Most prognoses—eight months. No health insurance.
            Fortunately, Kevin has you, friends, family, and kind Internet followers here in the states and abroad. I pray that you still think about Kevin, that you don’t forget what he’s going through. And I pray, ultimately, that things get easier.
Kevin started chemo two weeks ago, on Thursday, and from what I’ve heard from friends and family, took it like a champ. He’s been tired and he’s not talking on the phone, but that’s to be expected, right? However, his lack of insurance is still an issue. The doctors almost did not let him go home to his family, because he could not afford to buy the necessary medications to live at home with his family, and was faced with the option of staying in the hospital and accruing more debt. Fortunately, his mother was able to help him this month, and went to fill his $800 prescription. Upon receiving her total, the cashier announced, “That’ll be $300.” Confused, my aunt asked if she was mistaken, and the cashier replied, “It’s been…discounted.”
Kevin's senior portrait
I don’t know if the medicine he needed was randomly on sale (do medicines go on sale?) or if some kind stranger contributed to this discount. Either way, I’m thankful, and my family is too. It’s these little things that I ask we band together for. It is a true blessing that Kevin qualifies for Maine Care, a state-sponsored medical relief fund. It hasn’t kicked in yet, but this program will assist with medical bills. However, travel and I believe medication are still up to him. Kevin will need to travel regularly to Boston, to go to a special cancer center to receive treatment. His mother would love to go with him. Plane tickets from Maine to Boston usually run about $350-$400. I feel like this, along with chipping in toward his monthly medications is an attainable goal.
I also want to take a moment to thank Kevin’s workplace, Tobey’s Grocery. They have been doing everything in their power to make Kevin’s life easier. They’ve funded a few medical procedures so far, and are selling awareness ribbons in the store to raise more funds. I am thankful for these kind-hearted people.
The past two weeks have been a roller coaster. I’ve applied to open a deposit only account for donations, and was approved by the bank. The account should be open in the next few days, and I’ll post a link when that happens.
Always positive, even through chemo.
My goal for a 5K, however, is a little more complicated. I’ve been struggling to find a location that is willing to host the event without wanting to make a profit off of our fundraiser. Though this is disheartening, I still want to push forward and do something. This may manifest in a different way, but I have confidence that God will provide an avenue to help.
Most of all, I thank everyone who’s had a part in praying or encouraging Kevin along this journey. My family is comforted by everyone’s support and willingness to help, and we hope this genuine love and kindness continues as Kevin moves forward.

All the best,

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Kevin's Story

The Maine countryside--where we laughed, cried and played together. 
Growing up, my cousins and I were quintessential 90s kids. We would play hide and seek in my aunt’s basement, make up crazy stories, and each Christmas we performed skits with too many fart jokes that were only funny to us.

Ricky, Dan, Matt, Angel, Danielle, me, and Kevin. 

Ricky, the oldest, would write the skits and teach us to head bang properly to Kurt Cobain. Matt, the troublemaker, drew on my dolls and put my stuffed animals in the microwave. Dan, the levelheaded one, was quiet and easygoing. Angel was the glamour girl, and I looked up to the four years of life experience she had on me. Danielle, my sister, was the one who talked me into hiding under the bathroom sink during hide and seek (with the lights off), a decision I immediately regretted. And I, the slightly odd one, would tag along to be cool, cried a lot and always played “the crazy lady” during our skits.

And then there is Kevin. Kevin is eighteen months younger than me, and when we were kids, we were both scrawny. I enjoyed being older than someone, which meant (to Kevin’s dismay) that Angel, Danielle and I would dress him up in dresses and do his makeup. Kevin is a pretty easygoing guy, so it didn’t bother him too much. He had a great sense of humor, even at such a young age, and would always make us laugh.

Our childhood playground.
This group of cousins has been through a lot, just like any family. My sister and I were moved across the globe at the ages of seven and nine, so we didn’t see the others for nearly four years. During that time, in October of 2000, we lost Ricky to a long battle with depression that eventually culminated in his suicide. This loss was devastating to the whole family, but I think Kevin took it especially hard. Kevin and Ricky looked a lot alike, and since Kevin’s father was absent, Ricky took on the role of “this is what I might be someday.”

Kevin was also close with our grandmother. His mother is the youngest of three, and with Kevin’s father absent, my grandparents helped my aunt in any way they could. My grandmother was a primary caregiver during Kevin’s formative years, and their bond was one I sometimes wished for. Later, our grandmother struggled for some time with her memory, eventually admitting (after years of encouragement from the family) that she needed help. She was diagnosed with advanced Alzheimer’s and declined quickly, becoming too much for my grandfather to handle on his own. She was put in a nursing home, but ended up in the hospital shortly after. She passed in October of 2010, another devastating blow. Our grandfather was in the hospital the following fall, and passed in November of 2011.

Throughout the years, everyone grew up, some got married, some had kids, some went to college. Kevin became a butcher and started a simple life in the Maine countryside. I saw him this summer, after three years, and he seemed his normal self. He was cavalier and sarcastic, chatted with family and told jokes. But recently, that’s begun to change. His face is a purple rash, he is weak, and his liver and kidneys began to malfunction. He’s twenty-one years old.

Because he doesn’t have health insurance, he was bounced around from clinic to clinic, receiving diagnoses such as “It’s a virus, just rest,” or “I can’t do anything for you, I suggest you just take it easy.” As an hourly worker in this tenuous economy, he wasn’t able to take this advice—until he had to. He became worse. Three nights ago, he was taken into the ER to have an emergency splenectomy. The doctors finally performed the necessary (but more expensive) tests, only to reveal that Kevin has Hepatosplenic T-cell Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a very rare form of cancer. This form usually requires bone marrow transplants, but has a low rate of remission. Those diagnosed with Hepatosplenic T-cell Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma usually don’t live beyond eight months.

I don’t know about you, but knowing that my God has a plan for each person isn’t comforting when hit with news like this. I feel useless. I feel stuck. I feel small. This boy is part of my family and he hasn’t even really started living yet. There are so many things he wants and deserves to do. So, I want to rally friends, family and strangers (using the power of the Internet) because what better way to be like Jesus than to meet a need? Kevin needs to be treated in Boston, and while the hospital social worker is trying to help with a state-sponsored health relief fund, it won’t solve everything. As my mother said this afternoon, “Unfortunately, money is a big deal, especially when it comes to cancer.”

So, I propose this. Let’s come together. Let’s pray for healing. Let’s give our spare change. Let’s run a 5K to raise funds for his treatment. And if not in the name of Jesus, let’s do it because we’re human beings, and a 21-year-old boy shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not he makes enough money to deserve decent health care.