“Never give in and never give up.”
- Hubert H. Humphrey
America loves a winner.
But do you know what they love even more?
It’s the underdog.
The guy that faces impossible odds but keeps getting up no matter how many times he gets knocked down to the mat.
We watch in awe and amazement from the sidelines of life as we constantly take the measure of these people and put their lives on the scale with our own. Each time we come up short on our end.
That’s how I feel with my father-in-law Lennie Carrico.
I wrote about him once before in a column called “The Miracle Man.”
His family was quite poor growing up and he didn’t have an easy life. His father died when he was a small boy. His single mother worked at a sewing factory for over 30 years, raising him and his four brothers and sisters. It was a bare living.
He met and married very young to a good woman who also came from a family of humble means.
Together, through thick and thin, they raised their own family of three girls.
I’ll tell you one thing. They worked hard for everything they had. Yes sir, they made their way through this old world bound only by love and no free rides.
He worked past 65 and was nearing retirement when tragedy struck his health.
He had been a heavy smoker as a young man and though he had quit 20 years ago; it came back to haunt him.
His throat became hoarse and wouldn’t heal up for a couple of months. He went to see a doctor in June of 2011. It was determined that he had cancer of the larynx (the voice box and vocal chords).
What would your first thought be after this news?
Well this fellow is a strong man that has always put his wife and kids first. His thought was “Thank God it’s me and not one of my family.” It was a genuine thanks to God.
Radiation treatments were begun. These treatments were for five days a week for six weeks ending in October 2011.
The treatment was unsuccessful.
Other doctors were consulted and he began laser treatments to end the cancer and save the voice box over a period of months with trips to an out-of-state facility. It was now January 2012. These treatments ended in April 2012.
They were unsuccessful.
Then Lennie began to pass blood in his urine.
He went to get this x-rayed and three more life-threatening problems were found.
The doctors discovered a bladder cancer, a very large abdominal aortic aneurysm and almost complete blockage in his heart.
An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is a blood-filled bulge or ballooning in a part of your aorta that runs through your abdomen. Over time, this bulge in your aorta can become weak, and the force of normal blood pressure can cause it to rupture. This can lead to severe pain and massive internal bleeding, or hemorrhage, which can be fatal.
The problem was he had to have triple by-pass surgery on his heart before doctors could treat the aneurysm. Both needed to be treated before further treatment on his voice box cancer could continue, and then the bladder cancer could be taken care of.
Lennie had the weight of the world on his shoulders.
At that point, my wife Cindy came home in near tears as she related all the news to her own family. You see, she had given up on her father coming out of this alive. I thought the end was near as well.
Our youngest daughter Belle listened and comprehended that her Pap-Paw might be dying. She looked up with tear-stained eyes and said, “He’s not giving up is he? You sound like he’s just going to quit trying and die.”
It would be easy to give up.
He was tired and worn out. The pain from all that suffering is more than anyone should bear in a lifetime, yet alone in less than a year.
But you know what?
It’s not the man in the fight but the fight in the man and Lennie had a lot of fight.
He got the triple by-pass surgery in May 2012. He had to go back to the hospital twice to have fluid drawn off his lungs.
He went to the UK Markey Cancer Center in June 2012 because he couldn’t breath. He thought it was the fluid on his lungs again, only to learn that it was the now rapidly growing cancer in his throat shutting off his oxygen. He had a tracheotomy (breathing tube surgically put into the windpipe).
Two weeks later, he had surgery on the aneurysm. The doctor had told him he could die on the operating table and gave no promises.
He had a total laryngectomy (the removal of the entire voice box and epiglottis) in July 2012.
He had his bladder cancer surgery a couple of weeks later.
This is where I left you in the last column I wrote in 2012. We thought he was cancer-free.
But he wasn’t.
A few months later, in March 2013, it was determined that his cancer had come back and surgery was required again.
During the surgery they nicked an artery and another emergency surgery was required again in May.
After the surgery, he developed a blood infection that required constant treatment with antibiotics for months and another unexpected emergency hospital stay.
All seemed well until this past week.
It was determined that his cancer had again returned.
That had to be devastating after all he has been through. Lennie and his wife Brenda are waiting as of this article to see what treatment is recommended on this latest cancer.
Don’t tell me how tough someone is when everything is going well. The true measure of a person is taken when terrible tragedy takes a hold of their life personally. You see, only in winter can you tell what trees are truly green.
I saw Lennie the other night.
He was still smiling.
He was still laughing.
He said it was in God’s hands and will keep on keeping on.
My children have come to expect no less from this incredible man and were not shaken by the news of the return of his cancer. But I have to say it still amazes me.
I’m also sure that God smiled on his good and faithful servant’s unwavering faith.
Please pray for Lennie.
But somehow, I think he doesn’t needs your prayers.
From my sight, he walks with God.
Take care my friends.