By Marsha M. Brown
I have missed writing to you all over the past weeks but the absence of ‘GIG LINE’ just couldn’t be helped. But before I bring you all up to date on my ‘sweetie pie’ Billy, just know this…first and foremost…that you have been on our minds and in our hearts just the same and Billy wanted me to please thank all of you again for your prayers, support and help during this trying time in our lives.
On Friday, April 22nd at Duke University Medical Center following his recent brain biopsy, we heard the piercing words emphatically confirmed…Glioblastoma Multiforme. It was no longer an assumption based solely on MRI images and symptoms…it was now based on actual tissue. We were told there was no cure and no clinical trails available to him at his age and current state of health; there was only a recommended 5 day/six week regimen of radiation and chemotherapy to attack the intruder. So…immediately following the ‘official’ diagnosis, three local appointments with oncologists/radiologists were made where we learned the procedures to incorporate chemicals/radiation into his body in an attempt to prolong his life. During the appointments, we heard wonderful stories of others affected by cancer at stage or “level 4” who had done well, tolerated the drugs typically used and who are still living today; we also heard the side effects of consistent trips every day for treatments and how they would wear heavily on his already weakened body. But at that point, Billy…my hero and the only true love in my life…fully planned to go full steam ahead and make the effort to ‘keep on keeping on’ for as long as he was able. If the taxing treatments were too much, we knew plans could change but he was doing his best to hold his head up and fight this battle with all the courage and determination he could muster. Though his body was changing and Billy’s weight loss (as that time) was nearing 60 lbs only since February, he wanted to press on to live.
A lot has happened since then…a lot. At the end of April, Billy became extremely weak and was taken by medical transport from Outer Banks Hospital in the middle of the night back again to Duke University Hospital, Durham, NC, on Monday, May 2, 2016 where he (we) remained for ten (10) days until May 12th. And to our surprise following further setbacks, a collective medical team decision was made to forgo radiation and chemotherapy altogether and he was discharged/transported to the Pruitt Health Care in Durham for physical therapy to help strengthen him overall until his discharge from there on Saturday, May 21 to come home. Since that time specific changes and adjustments have been made to accommodate home care of which we are extremely thankful.
Visits from you all have continued to encourage and lift both of us up as well as our children; more prayers than I can count have been spoken over him and our family almost daily…seriously…almost daily. Veterans come often and sit with Billy, sometimes holding his hand with that special brotherly love that I relate to so often in GIG LINE; tears fall frequently in our home now…sometimes out of heartbreak and sometimes out of genuine gratitude for the love and kindnesses shown to us by so, so many every single day. Sometimes veterans bring pictures of events they’ve attended with Billy and he stares at them and smiles…sometimes tears fall on his pillow too because he’s touched and he’s proud of the close bond that has so obviously grown among our Dare County veterans and their supporters in the last few years.
Your visits, cards, checks, calls, emails and text have made Billy smile even on the most difficult of days…and me too because you’ve been here and ARE here for us and we’re both very grateful. And speaking of that, if you weren’t able to attend the benefit held in Billy’s honor, Saturday, March 26th at Manteo First Assembly Youth House, check out the video by going to https://youtu.be/puszqdUFldE. It encapsulates his life, his spirit and his love for his veteran brothers and sisters especially.
The fall of 2011 is when my sweetie pie and I first became engaged in what evolved into an active campaign to support our local vets and an annual “Salute to Veterans” was hosted by our church, Manteo First Assembly. Each year we improved on the event format honoring all service men and women, both past and present with the last few incorporating a play in addition to the music, history and military presentations. Then, last summer 2015, after considering the number of special events around Veterans Day weekend, we thought it would be nice to bring more attention to Memorial Day, so we planned again on creating, writing and implementing (with our Pastor Steve Smith’s full support) another celebration of our veterans and their sacrifice. But…obviously things changed which resulted in two of our young women church members (Elizabeth DeHart and Crystal Ambrose) “picked up the flag” as our friend Gary Felder always says and put together a beautiful program that was held on Saturday, May 28th at 4:00 PM. We were both thrilled and touched that they wanted to keep the plan in place and remind all of us of our military men and women’s sacrifice…their ultimate sacrifice. We weren’t able to attend of course but they even streamed it into our house so we could watch it as it took place…exceptional and first class…just like those who put it together.
Also, my sister Donna sent me a text the other day that I suggest you look at. It referenced the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Rochester, NY but when you do…be prepared…especially if you are one or someone you love is a Vietnam veteran. Without question, it resonates to all who have suffered since their service in Vietnam especially with regard to Agent Orange exposure. The figure is of a soldier walking into the wall face first that reminds us that many of our veterans have died since they served there and after having come back home. Check it out and you’ll see what I mean. It’s an awesome depiction of the ugly truth.
Today I promise I’ll do my very best to pick up where I left off and write GIG LINE each week to continue to honor and celebrate all of the brave men and women who have served our country…just like Billy wants me to. I will also keep you posted on how my precious Billy is doing too because I am asked so often.
In the meantime, our Outer Banks V.F.W. Post 10950 is moving and shaking! They recently held their annual fundraising event at the Colington Fire Department and it was a HUGE success. Thanks to the great veterans and supporters who worked hard and contributed so much of their time to put it together. I understand that over 200 people were in attendance and considerable funds were raised to support their goals to help fellow veterans. Because of their diligent efforts, more and more veterans are becoming involved, joining their membership and attending their functions. If you’re interested in becoming a member or transferring your membership, please get in touch with them at your earliest convenience. Two points of contact: Jim Norrell (252) 489-9421 or Bo Simpson (252) 473-7192 – great men who love our country and fellow vets. They are two of the men and women working diligently to help local veterans in many ways…join them and be a part of their great team. Their meetings are held on the first Monday each month at 7:00PM (at the Colington Fire Dept. – ample parking and elevator on site). Also, contact the American Legion Post 26 who meet generally every fourth Tuesday @ 12 Noon (lunch is provided free of charge) by calling (252) 715-4251 and leave a message. Both organizations encompass devoted veterans dedicated to those who served, please seek them out and be a part of something r-e-a-l-l-y big.
Lastly, we love you all so much and we miss you. You’re always welcome to visit us at our humble…very humble abode in Manteo especially after 1PM preferably. Know that without our family, church family, community of friends and veteran support this journey would seem impossible. If you’d like to contact us: use firstname.lastname@example.org; call my cell: (252) 202-2058 or write to us at: 163 Roanoke Trail, Manteo, NC 27954. We’d love to hear from you and please…above all, keep the prayers going…God hears them all.
Until next time, be happy, be safe and be proud of yourselves, your service to our country and your love for each other. You are veterans of the United States military…the best there ever was and ever…I repeat…ever will be. God bless you all.