If someone would have told me a week ago – heck, three days ago – that dad would be dressed and outside enjoying a cookout with family on Memorial Day, I would never have believed it. But, it happened.


Dad was discharged from Hillcrest on Friday and is now a short-term resident at a rehabilitation center in Twinsburg. He’s working on regaining some of the strength he lost during his 10-day stay in the hospital. We hope that he’ll be home by the weekend.

To see how far this man has come since we took him to the emergency room on May 18 to today is nothing short of a miracle. We talked more tonight about what he experienced during those 10 days, and I’m just so thankful that he found the inner strength and will to fight through. I’m thankful that my parents believe in the vows they took nearly 41 years ago. Because the “in sickness and in health” part has been tested for many years, but never so much as now. Regardless, mom has been by dad’s side throughout this ordeal, both day and night. I’m thankful that Kelly and I have loving and patient husbands and children that are with us through the good and bad. And finally, I’m thankful for each of you…our cheering section. Because I truly believe that days like today were made possible because of your prayers and well wishes. Thank you.

I hope you all enjoyed the beauty of this weekend with the ones you love.

Until next time,

Mary Beth

Here are a few pictures of our “picnic” this evening…


To hell and back

I’m sorry that it took so long to share an update. Every time I thought I was ready to say something, things changed. This past week has been an absolute nightmare for our family, and I’m not sure I can even put into words what we’ve been through.

I’ll start with the best news of all – dad was released from the ICU late Tuesday night and transferred to a spacious room with large windows, a bathroom, recliner, couch and cabinets! He is living in luxury compared to the place he called home for six long days.


Braden and Laina surprised Papa with a visit late Tuesday night when he was transferred out of ICU – what a beautiful moment!

Last Wednesday night, we learned dad had a rare and dangerous reaction to chemotherapy – tumor lysis syndrome. The rapid breakdown of the cancer cells released toxins that his body could not process, resulting in acute kidney failure. His potassium level was the highest the ICU team had seen and required emergency dialysis, which thankfully reversed the problem. By mid-morning on Thursday, his kidney function and blood tests showed significant improvement. When he woke, he cried and thanked us for helping him. He told us he went to hell and back. If we only knew that was just the beginning.

In an effort to save time, mistakes and dignity, I’ll forgo the timeline and details of what happened next. In summary, it seemed that as one thing improved, another thing went awry. On day two, he spiked a fever. His blood pressure and oxygen dropped while his heart rate exceeded 200. His platelets hit the teens when they should be at least 150,000. It was one thing after another, and this man had more doctors and medications than I ever thought possible. We all hit a very dark place. We experienced every emotion possible – relief, joy and gratitude along with fear, grief and anger.

One of the most powerful moments of this experience took place on Monday. My mom, Kelly and I were all in the room with dad when a music therapist named Stephanie stopped by to visit. We were quiet and skeptical. We felt defeated. We were noticeably sad. She sensed that and pushed us to open up to her. My dad, who had been unusually quiet for several days, started to answer her questions. He told her what he used to do for a living and what he likes to do for fun. He told her about his cars and his family. He told her he liked ‘the oldies,’ and they agreed on “Old Time Rock & Roll” and “Under the Boardwalk.” While we held hands with tears flowing, she sang those two songs to our family in the most perfectly soothing and folksy way. That was the medicine our family needed. It was then that the true healing began.

That evening, the four of us watched the CAVS game together in Room 24 of the ICU. I read my last blog, “Chemo – a catch 22” to dad, and we walked him through his experience. That night, we slept more soundly aside from the hourly nurse visits, beeping monitors and uncomfortable sleeping arrangements. The next day, we learned that all of his electrolytes were normalizing. They removed his catheter. He sat in a chair. They decreased or eliminated some medications. He was on the mend. Dad was back.


Dad sitting in recliner on Monday.

Despite all of this, it’s been very difficult to answer the question, “How is your dad doing?” Not only because the situation was ever-changing, but because we also came to terms with the reality of his diagnosis. One of our favorite doctors said it most eloquently: “There are clear skies and sunshine ahead, but there is a dark ominous cloud following behind.” We aren’t sure what the future holds. We don’t yet know if treatment is an option, or even a desire. What we do know is that chemotherapy nearly killed him, and we will not let that happen again. We will do what we set out to do from the beginning – live with cancer. And I mean, really live. Dad has already talked about getting fitted for his prosthetic leg. We have lots of baseball and softball games to see. We have a NBA championship to witness. We’re making plans for the summer. We are going to live and love bigger than we ever did before. And that won’t be hard for us.

This week changed us all. We became closer, if that’s even possible. We were raw. We ‘cried ugly’ together. We witnessed how fragile life truly is. We saw so much pain, sorrow and suffering in one unit of a hospital, that to understand how that extrapolates throughout the world is suffocating. But, we also made new friends with other families, nurses, doctors and staff. We saw healing and hearten. We developed an appreciation so deep for the wonderful team that took care of dad in the ICU especially Tina, Tat, Morgan, Melanie, Jen, Kyle and Jared. You will always have a special place in our hearts.

Dad should be discharged tomorrow to a rehabilitation center where he’ll spend a short time working with a therapy team to regain the physical strength he lost during his hospital stay. Ironically, we don’t really have a map to follow from there yet, but we are ok with that. All we want is to get back to enjoying the sunshine.

Until next time,

Mary Beth


Chemo – a catch 22

In my last post, “Treatment is (finally) underway,” it was made clear that our family was ready to begin treatment. We were well versed on the side effects that these chemicals have on one’s body. We knew what to look out for, when to call (and when not to call) the doctor, and when to seek medical treatment. Or so we thought.

Dad handled round one of chemo, which started last Tuesday, very well initially. He even cut the grass on his riding lawn mower and rode his scooter to Laina’s softball game. But come Monday, his health and state of mind began to rapidly decline. We called his doctor’s office twice on Tuesday to describe his symptoms and hung up with the understanding that what he was experiencing were all common side effects of chemo but to monitor him closely. I spent the day with him yesterday while my mom went to her office in Conneaut to do some work. My one-on-one experience with him was what I needed to realize that things weren’t right. We called the doctor again and were told to go to the ER immediately.

Dad was diagnosed late last evening with Tumor Lysis Syndrome, an extremely rare and dangerous outcome of chemotherapy. Essentially, the chemo did what we asked – it kicked cancer’s butt. But it did so at a rate so rapid, that the cancer cells exploded in his body and released toxins that his body couldn’t process quickly enough. His kidneys were failing. They began a three-hour emergency dialysis around 2 a.m. His uric acid and potassium levels have improved, and the team is cautiously optimistic that this is an acute situation, meaning he will not need to continue dialysis once kidney functions return to normal.

Thankfully, dad has no idea what he’s going through right now. But we cannot wait for him to come to and to share this experience with him. I’m sure he’ll get a kick out of some of the funnier things he did during a very scary and uncertain time.

It’s rather ironic that the treatment we wanted to begin so badly to fight these cancer cells is having such a positive yet negative impact on his body. Now we know why people have a love-hate relationship with chemo. There is no doubt that we will need to revisit our plan of attack once things normalize.

I recently read a friend’s blog about her husband’s journey with cancer. One of her entries referenced that her life sometimes felt like a “shit sandwich.” I remember chuckling when I read this, and relating. Right now, I couldn’t say it any better. It’s been a rough couple of weeks for all of us, me included. From our cat passing last week to Braden’s hospitalization to this latest development with dad. Until now, I couldn’t find the words or strength to share an update. I was completely lost. I found myself asking “Why me? What did I do – what did my family do – to deserve this?” It’s now that I have to remind myself that this – the good and the bad, the ugly and the beautiful – is life.

And along every step of the way, I’ve never been alone. The support I’ve received in just the last week alone is overwhelming. I am so grateful for so many family members and friends that I’ve reached out to with questions or a favor or an ear.  Especially those that have been served a “shit sandwich” of their own but have been willing to help in any way or give answers despite their own struggles and loss. It’s the selflessness of others that gives you the strength to keep moving forward.

So on behalf of my family, I thank you for taking the time to read these updates and offer your love, prayers and good vibes. We are grateful that so many people are cheering for Chuck, including long-time loved ones from our hometown of Conneaut to new and dear friends in our home of Twinsburg. Please, keep on cheering. It’s a long road ahead, but we’ve got this together.

Until next time,

Mary Beth


Treatment is (finally) underway

Fatigued. Nauseous. Watery mouth. Emotional. Shaky. Clammy. Tightness in chest.

No, I’m not describing dad’s symptoms. I’m describing the things I’ve been experiencing since we learned of dad’s diagnosis 18 days ago. I’m 99.9 percent certain mom and Kelly would agree. These symptoms subside, but they never entirely go away. And they most certainly increase in intensity whenever we go for an appointment or test. Fear does strange things to a person’s mind and body.

As for my dad’s symptoms, they are actually pretty similar. The majority of them are caused by the same fear, but he does have some discomfort in his abdomen and lower back that is managed by morphine. But for him, I’d increase ‘fatigued’ to ‘downright exhausted.’ This process – the diagnosis, the back-and-forth to the hospital, the waiting, and the unknown – has been mentally and physically exhausting on him. On everyone, really. Because we’re in it together, remember?

Today, however, we finally have answers. And a plan.

The MRI of his brain that was performed on Monday was negative. Hallelujah! The pathology report from the biopsy of his liver showed that the cancer type is small cell lung cancer with liver metastases. While more rare, aggressive and incurable, small cell is treatable. So, within 30 minutes of our consultation with Dr. Weiss, dad was in the infusion chair and treatment was underway.

The following medications are admistered via a port in his chest over a three-day period:
– Zofran to prevent nausea
– Decadron steroid to prevent nausea and allergic reaction
– Carboplatin and Etoposide chemotherapy to fight the cancer cells

The chemo meds aim to attack all cancer cells, in both the lung and liver and wherever else they might be hiding out. On day four, he will receive an injection of Neulasta, which is a bone marrow stimulant that helps the body make white blood cells that fight off infection.

He will go through this same treatment plan every three weeks for four cycles. In early August, they will repeat the scans, and hopefully we will see that the medications are giving cancer a much deserved kick in the ass!

He handled day one well, and the staff allowed all three of us to join him for today only. Kelly and Garett had shirts made for the entire party of 11, and we all wore them with pride. (FRONT: Hey cancer, you picked the wrong family to mess with! BACK: Team Chuck)

One thing that I have always observed about dad is that he treats doctors and nurses with the utmost respect and admiration. And they love him for it. He has always found a way to make them laugh, no matter the circumstance. And he’s still finding the humor in things today despite the challenges he is facing. For example, the nurse asked if he had any questions before she started the treatment. He said in the most serious tone, “Yes, can someone tell me what the heck these ‘jelly bean jackers’ are doing here?!”


One of many jelly bean jackers!

Since my first post, The day life handed us lemons, we have been touched by the amount of support we’ve received from near and far – in the way of comments, cards, phone calls and care packages. So many people have simply reached out to say they care, and that they are cheering for Chuck. We are very appreciative of your love and kindness, especially dad. In fact, the other night when he saw all of the comments on the Facebook post and the number of views this blog had received, he said: “That Prince guy ain’t got nothing on me!”

He’s right. And it’s that type of attitude that will see him through this.

Tonight, he’s resting comfortably. Hopefully, a little more soundly than he has been. His heart and mind have been heavy. And while we know the road ahead won’t be easy, we at least have a map to start following. And for that, we are thankful.

Until next time,
Mary Beth

mom and dad

Mom & Dad on Mother’s Day 2016

The day life handed us lemons

Our family has overcome sudden tragedy. And we’ve pushed through long-term obstacles. But we’ve never dealt with something as scary and unknown as cancer.

On April 22, 2016, our family was rocked to its core. We received the official diagnosis from Dr. Kenneth Weiss at the Cleveland Clinic that our husband, father and papa had Stage IV lung cancer that had metastasized to his liver. WTF.

Let me back up…

On March 4, dad went to see our family friend, Dr. Nilesh Shah, to finally have his shoulders evaluated. After 20+ surgeries on his right knee and years of relying on crutches and walkers to move around, his leg was finally healing well. And, he was ready to address his upper body. X-rays showed significant damage to both shoulders. It also showed something abnormal in his right lung. We were floored. The very next day, his knee replacement failed yet again and a few days later, the very difficult decision was made to amputate his leg. This was one of the hardest things we’ve ever faced as a family. In hindsight, it was a piece of cake.

Once dad and mom made it through the physical and emotional healing of the amputation, a CT scan was performed on April 18 to figure out what was going on in his lung. That scan led to the official diagnosis we received on April 22. Cancer. I hope you’re following along…

As a side note, and something that is so simple yet illustrates the strength and resolve of both my mom and dad: the very next day after diagnosis, they both came to Braden’s baseball scrimmage. Not a game, a scrimmage. That’s just the type of people and grandparents they are.

So several tests and appointments later, here is what we know:

  • There is a 1.5″ mass in his right lung. It has a weird arm-like thing that is wrapped around his bronchial tube. The tumor is adjacent to his vena cava, a main artery that leads directly to his liver, which is where the cancer has found a nice home.
  • The liver is very enlarged and involved, which is what is causing the pain in dad’s abdomen and lower back. (Here, we thought it was a kidney stone or pulled muscle from moving his body around with one leg.)
  • A second CT scan showed that the cancer is not present in his adrenal gland, kidneys, stomach or bones. So we celebrate that the cancer is limited to two organs. Yay.
  • A biopsy was performed on Monday to determine the type of cancer and treatment plan. We went today to learn the results and next steps. The sample they pulled from a lesion in his liver was surprisingly low of cancer cells (I like to think that’s a good sign, but…). Further pathology tests need to be performed, and we’ll get those results next Tuesday. A MRI will be performed on Monday to confirm that the cancer is not present in the brain.
  • A treatment plan will be agreed upon on Tuesday and meds will be administered via a port that has been implanted into his chest.

Jeesh, in writing this, I realize that so much has happened in the past 12 days, yet still the process is…so…slow.

I think one of the hardest things about cancer is that you relinquish all control to a nasty disease, to doctors and to the man upstairs. The 12 days that have passed since the official diagnosis have been long and excruciating. We wanted treatment to start, yesterday. But we also know that in order to properly treat the cancer, we need to know what type we’re dealing with. Where we have gained back some sense of control is with diet. Dad has agreed to avoid sugar, white flour, processed foods and red meat. (If you know our dad well, you know this is NOT easy but he’s open to it and doing it). Like my mom says – we used to live to eat, now we eat to live. Thanks to recommendations from good friends, we are also experimenting with essential oils and macrobiotics. We are choosing to believe that we are doing what we can to fight the cancer ourselves until medicine can do its thing.

One of the most profound statements came from one of my best friends on the day we found out the news. She recently lost her mom to cancer, but she said “Mary Beth, this is not a death sentence.” And I believe her. And so does my dad, mom and Kelly.

So, we are choosing to live with cancer. And fight it together. One thing I’ve realized through this process is how rampant the disease is, how many people have been impacted by it. And not just in the “I have a friend of a friend” kind of way, but through first-hand experiences with moms, dads, spouses, siblings, children. It’s gut wrenching.

So, where do we go from here? We go forward. We make lemonade. We know the seriousness of his diagnosis. But we also know the strength he has displayed in the last decade and the love and strength of our family, especially my mom. We are a party of 11. We often call ourselves “browns cows” when we go places because you get the entire herd. We are in this, together. And really, isn’t that what counts?

People often comment on how lucky we are to be so close as a family. There is a lot of truth to that, but being this close also means that the pain and hurt cuts so much deeper. But our love and strength is our best form of attack. And, like another friend told me, who has also been touched by the disease: cancer, you picked the wrong family to mess with.

So what can you do? It’s simple. We ask that you pray. We’ve been doing that a lot lately. Individually and as a family. And if you don’t pray, send healing thoughts and good vibes our way. We’ll accept them all and hold them tight as we take our next step forward in this journey.

Until next time,

Mary Beth