” I didn’t want to give up my life, I had a lot to live for.” – Shirley Ray
This was the first thought that entered her mind when the oncologist told them that Shirley had multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that develops in the plasma cells found in the soft, spongy tissue at the center of your bones, called bone marrow. This was certainly not what the Rays expected when Shirley initially went to her chiropractor in December, 2o16. Shirley, a hairdresser, was having trouble holding the scissors and eventually had trouble standing and could not work. When the chiropractor suspected that there was something more going on, Shirley went for an MRI and incredibly it showed that her spine was fractured in 12 places. They did not know at the time that it was the myeloma that was the cause. Shirley went from her general practitioner to a neurologist, then an orthopedic specialist and finally to a rheumatologist who sent her for a full blood work up. Her oncologist, Dr. Bale confirmed their worst fears. “What do we do now? What are my choices?” – Shirley asked. If she did nothing, she would have about 3-5 months left. They opted for the chemotherapy which was the best chance for recovery. It started two weeks later. Eventually, after two months of chemotherapy, it was decided that a stem cell, or blood & marrow transplant (BMT), at Roswell Park Comprehensive Care Center was the next step.
The Rays had no idea where they were going to stay and their search online led them to Kevin Guest House. It was convenient and close to the hospital and they came in for a tour to take a look around. Shirley remembered thinking, “To have a home that’s not just for children, but adults too. So centrally located, comfortable, clean and so many provisions. The staff is just so courteous and kind. It was amazing, truly amazing.”
In November of 2017, Dennis stayed in the main house while Shirley was admitted to Roswell Park for her transplant and until she was ready to be released. There were many bumps in the road and they were discouraged because her discharged date kept getting pushed back and Shirley wanted to be home for Christmas. Once she was released, they both moved into one of KGH’s transplant recovery apartments while Shirley went back and forth to Roswell daily for regular appointments, physical therapy and follow up.
When they finally got the clearance to go home, another bump in the road. There was a problem with their car and they were unable to drive it all the way back to Freeville. Dennis, a mechanic by trade, knew he could fix the problem if he could just get the car home to his garage. To have it fixed here was going to cost $2,000. The Rays had both been out of work for more than a year and combined with the cost of being away from home for months had them in a bad financial situation. Thankfully, Dennis was a AAA member! After a call from one of the KGH staff to a friend that works at the local office, the President of WNY AAA provided a free tow to get their car back home and a free rental car so they could take their time to pack up their things and get home. It has been a long and tough road, but the Rays are finally home in Freeville and Shirley is getting stronger every day.
“There’s no place like home, but the next best thing is Kevin Guest House.” – Dennis Ray