2019-03-13 / News

A Community Comes To the Aid Of a Family Coping with Cancer

By Patty Lollot

Gary Beardsley and his wife Kim cope with his cancer through the support of family, friends and pets like Isaiah. Patty Lollot/The Reporter Gary Beardsley and his wife Kim cope with his cancer through the support of family, friends and pets like Isaiah. Patty Lollot/The Reporter AFTON - “I was dumbfounded,” recalls Gary Beardsley when his wife Kim came to his place of work at Lambrecht Auction in Bainbridge last November. “I saw her in the car and went out to see her.” The couple had been waiting for a phone call from their doctor advising them of the result of a biopsy taken from a growth he had on his left ear. “She was crying and I knew it wasn’t good.” And, he was right. He had been diagnosed with metastatic melanoma, a malignant skin cancer that can spread quickly through the lymph glands and on to other parts of the body.

The seemingly innocuous mole that Beardsley had on the top of his ear lobe, which he noticed back in 2015, had grown over a three year period, to the point where it split and had begun to bleed. It was time, he knew, to have it checked out. Once the diagnosis was made, he underwent surgery on Dec. 3 at Binghamton General Hospital. “They removed about one third of my ear and a lymph node,” he said. At that point he was in stage 2 of the disease.

A “wait and see” period to determine if more surgery was indicated didn’t take long. “Three weeks later they found a metastatic tumor at my jaw line. At first they thought it was swelling from my pituitary due to the first surgery, but after a PET - full body scan - they removed the rest of my ear, 41 lymph nodes around my jugular vein and some muscle was removed which has affected my left arm movement,” he explained.

Now in stage 3, the oncology visits, the treatments, the travel and stress on him and his family have taken their toll, but Beardsley refuses to give in, or up. He is undergoing what he calls “immune treatment, a ‘new age’ chemo treatment that builds up my body,” he said. For that, Kim routinely takes him to Binghamton. If his condition worsens, he will be referred to the Roswell Cancer Treatment Center in Buffalo.

Kim helps give him full body checks almost daily to see if there are any new lumps or bumps to be noted. Already they are watching what seems like a soft tissue lump under the skin on his right forearm.

“The biggest problem I have is knowing what my family is going through,” he said. Married for 17 years, he has three stepdaughters: Zana, Nichole and Miranda, plus a grandson, Mason to whom he is devoted. “It’s my wife, the kids and my dog, Isaiah, that keep me going,” he admits. He also possesses a dry, dark sense of humor about the disease and his disfigurement.

When his condition made it impossible to work there were serious financial concerns. Kim is disabled and cannot work which meant that there was no income to pay the bills. Yet, as is so typical in many rural, but close-knit areas, friends, family and community flocked together to help the couple make ends meet.

“Jared Lambrecht is an amazing person,” said Beardsley. “When he saw how upset we were when Kim came to my place of work with the bad news, Jared came right out and put his arm around me.” Lambrecht has taken a optimistic approach in more ways than one. “He always makes me want to take a positive attitude,” notes Beardsley. Lambrecht recently held a benefit auction for the Beardsleys and is holding a fundraiser on Facebook to support the family. “We cried when we found out what Jared was doing for us,” said Kim.

Others have started a Go Fund Me page, also on Facebook, and on April 13, from 3 to 7 p.m. there will be a Chinese auction, raffle, spaghetti dinner and band playing at the American Legion in Sidney to benefit the family. The event is being organized by their oldest daughter, Zana.

Even their landlord has been gracious about the rent due on the trailer they live in.

While the prognosis for metastatic melanoma is grim, because it can travel throughout the body affecting major organs, Beardsley is quick to note that in his research he has found cases of stage 4 cancer victims who have beat the odds and lived for years. He keeps his spirit up by thinking that he too, can beat those odds. “While this has been quite the smack in the face, my goal is to stay in remission and be able to go back to work,” he states.

Kim said Gary’s condition weighs heavy on her every day. Keeping busy with her daughters, and her grandson helps keep her mind off of him at least for a little while. She and the girls continuously look to a higher power for strength and remission of the cancer. “I pray to God all the time for Gary,” she said.

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