This year has not been kind to Tammy and Billy Vance. In fact, 2010 has brought the couple to near financial and familial disaster.
In January, Billy was laid off from his job at L-3 Communications in Cincinnati. In the scheme of things, that wasn't the worst possible event considering he had been diagnosed with appendiceal cancer in 2007 and it came raging back this year.
After surgery and chemotherapy in 2007, Billy seemed cancer free. But in June, he experienced an intestinal blockage that caused abdominal pain. Doctors assumed it was caused by scar tissue from the cancer surgery and treatment.
Tumors were discovered, however, during a routine, six-month CT scan.
On Sept. 24, after another trip to the emergency room for the blockage and pain, Billy went into surgery.
"They took out one tumor," said his wife, Tammy, "but they said there were just too many. They gave him very little hope."
A Navy veteran, Billy was diagnosed with appendiceal andenocarcinoma goblet cell type, a rare and very aggressive type of cancer of the appendix.
Unwilling to accept the prognosis, Tammy called the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, which she had seen advertised on TV.
Last week Billy, Tammy, their son, Jesse, and Tammy's mother, Dianne Locker, boarded a plane and flew to Oklahoma at the CTCA's behest, where Billy was to be assessed.
Doctors at the CTCA at Southwest Regional Medical Center in Tulsa decided Billy was too ill with an infection to return to Lexington just yet.
Tammy had to leave him and return to Lexington to keep an appointment at the Shriners Hospital for their son. He had undergone surgery in January and in July to realign bones and straighten his feet. With the casts removed, he's able to put a little weight on his feet, leaving his wheelchair behind eventually. Jesse also has spina bifida occulta, scoliosis and Asperger's.
Tammy has been a stay-at-home mother, home schooling her son.
What all that means is the family is about to lose the COBRA insurance that allows Billy to be treated, and they may lose their home.
"We did have a savings," Tammy said. "My husband had a good job. But after 10 months of no money, we are having to reach out. We've never been in this position before."
To help the family, Locker, Tammy's mother, has organized a yard sale to raise money, because Billy "will have a lot of treatments for a long time," Locker said in her e-mail to me, "but we think he can beat this."
People from the home-school community, neighbors and friends have donated items to be sold from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at 388 Masterson Station Drive. All proceeds will go to pay the monthly insurance premiums and mortgage.
Tammy and Jesse drove back to Tulsa on Wednesday. She has connected with a home-school community there so her son can continue his education during the expected two months Billy's treatment may take.
"If we don't have COBRA, we can't get the treatments," she said. "And if we lose our house, we won't have a place to live."
The family needs your help.
If you have an item you can donate for the yard sale, e-mail Locker at firstname.lastname@example.org. Today is the final day she can receive items, however. If you'd like to donate money, you can mail a check to the Vances at Locker's address.
We still have a couple of months left to turn this year around for them.