This is my sister and brother-in-law Colleen and Eric and their twins. <3
I wanted to introduce them to you today and share their story (or part of it anyway) and since she can tell you better than I, I asked Colleen to share it with you. Here she is.
We thought we led a pretty normal life. Met in 2002. We were married in 2007, decided on our first anniversary it was time to try for a baby. That is where the normal part ended. We were so lucky to become pregnant so easily, so lucky that we later found out we were expecting TWINS. 2009 was filled with many ups while prepping for the arrival of our children. Finally, after 39 weeks, Olivia and Ethan were born in August 2009. The following months are a blur now, trying to care for newborn twins together while both working full time. But we did it. Together.
February 3, 2010 came and Eric had been experiencing some odd symptoms, so we took him to the ER. After many tests, they found “something” near his liver. Given his age, the doctors thought it was some sort of stone. After a four day stay in the hospital, they released him with a referral to see a surgeon at Cleveland Clinic Main Campus. The February 11, 2010 came. The morning we thought he had a stone turned into an afternoon where he had cancer. BIliary tree cancer. Cholangiocarcinoma if you will. A cancer normal for men aged 65-70, not the young father I sat next to that day. The surgeon explained to us that Eric’s tumor was located in his bile duct (Bile, required for the digestion of food, is secreted by the liver into passages that carry bile toward the hepatic duct, which joins with the cystic duct, carrying bile to and from the gallbladder, to form the common bile duct, which opens into the intestine.) The plan was set. Eric was to have his bile duct reconstructed, remove the tumor, remove 80% of his liver and completely remove the gall bladder. Eric was 32 at the time, so the doctors were confident he would be able to recover from surgery since the liver is the organ that regenerates.
That day, he had a stint inserted to remove the blockage in his bile duct, which relieved the jaundice. The next day, he had another procedure done to basically shut down one side of his liver, so that the side we were keeping would beef up. Our children were five months old.
Eric had the eight hour surgery on March 8, 2010. For those of you familiar with the Clinic’s surgical procedures, you receive a pager with updates from the operating room. Eric sent me a joke before he went under. Because that is how Eric is, always making sure I am OK with a joke. It was after that, I took a deep breath and felt OK.
The surgery was successful and after six days in the hospital, Eric came home. Only, we had temporarily moved into my in-laws’ home so that I would have help with the twins while I worked and Eric would have help with his recovery. His mom and dad really kept us together and I am forever thankful for it.
After Eric’s eight week recovery, he went back to work and we moved back into our home. But then the next day, he started chemotherapy. The tumor had been removed, but doctors wanted to make sure it stayed away. Eric had chemo for about five months and then was scheduled for a check up scan. On September 20, 2010, Eric was officially cancer free! The surgery and chemo had worked!! But one more precaution, the doctors wanted a quick 28 day round of radiation. So as of November 24, 2010, Eric was free. Just come back every three months for check up scans.
There we were, 9 months later. Changed and burned. But we tried to live as a family of four the best we could. Getting over the horrific year we had, was probably the hardest triumph we had faced. But we knew it had to be a new normal.
364 days after being cleared, we found out that there was cancer on his liver. Obviously, we were shattered. But Eric knew he had to do what the doctors recommended. So a week later, Eric began chemo again.
Despite this being our darkest hour, his parents were always the ones who helped us. We had plans for new child care in place, but then, I got the call from Eric’s dad that I needed to find a new sitter.
Eric’s dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a mere three weeks after Eric’s recurrence. Another sucker punch.
Eric and his dad continued with treatments. Until Eric’s dad could not do it anymore and he passed away on March 30, 2012. We had lost the guy who “had all the answers.”
Despite our heartbreak, Eric’s chemo had been working and the tumors on his liver were smaller and was able to take a break.
We celebrated with taking Olivia and Ethan (along with our best friend, Davey) to Disney World. Very brave to take two two and a half year olds to Disney, but it is something we wanted to do while Eric was feeling good.
Mickey was good on the soul and then Eric started doing an oral chemo, which would hopefully maintain the size of his tumors. Which it did, until November 2012.
The tumors had grown on his liver and he was having back pain. Another scan showed two tumors on his spine.
In January 2013, Eric had two Stereotactic Spine Radio surgeries to hopefully alleviate the pain from the spinal tumors. On January 19, 2013, we renewed our wedding vows in a beautiful ceremony planned but some of our dearest friends.
Eric’s pain was not subsiding, so his last day at work was in late January 2013. He then started another round of chemo (his fourth), but this time he was not as strong as he had been in the past. Eric then spent six days in the hospital.
We have chosen to stay with his mom so that he can get the care he needs while I am at work and the twins at school. Another new normal for us.
I have been asking Colleen what can I do to help for a long time and I finally know. Eric is no longer able to work and Colleen has zero paid time off left to care for Eric and she works for a small company with no FMLA. As she will now be the sole provider for her family- anything we can do to offer them support is more than appreciated. Your thoughts and prayers for them as well as your donations. Friends have put together a benefit: Rally around the Reeds on March 22 and any items that can be donated to auction off are appreciated, please email me if you can help in this area. And even if you don’t have anything to give, if you can share this story on social media or your blogs, it will help. Click below to donate via paypal and the methods listed below. No amount is too small, I promise.
Even if they weren’t my family, they are good people. Funny, smart, awesome people and wonderful parents to those twins. You guys would love them. Eric is fighting hard and Colleen needs support to take care of them and her babies and I would never reach out to you guys like this if it wasn’t extremely important to me.
Thank you for anything that you do. Share this please!