Stories From Our Families - January Edition

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Joy Graybeal was working at the Steelton mill when her back started hurting. Nobody, including her doctors, thought it unusual that a woman working full time and raising two grandchildren would have aches and pains.

 She was receiving treatment for her back pain when on Mother’s Day 2015, she suffered chest pain so severe that her grandchildren called an ambulance. After testing, doctors discovered the source of her pain: Stage 4 lung cancer. The tumors in her lungs had been pressing on the nerves in her back.

Since then, she’s endured plenty of treatment. There’s been chemotherapy, radiation and immunotherapy. She’s also been selected for a clinical trial at the University of Pennsylvania that is currently on hold.

 As she waits for that to get back on track, hopefully in March, she is undergoing more chemotherapy, battling the tumors that are growing again.

 She is alone now in her Carsonville home. The grandchildren went to live with their mother when Joy became too weak to care for them. She doesn’t go out much, she said. She has lost so much weight that she constantly feels cold. Stepping out into the winter weather simply isn’t appealing.

 Truth be told, she said, she’s often depressed. This isn’t how she envisioned her life at 56, said the mother of four and grandmother of 16.

 “I did all the things I was supposed to do, raised my kids, worked, took in other kids. Now I kind of feel like I’m getting (pooped) on,” she said.

 One ray of sunshine in her life is the help she is getting from Vicki’s Angel Foundation. For a while, Joy said, she wasn’t too concerned about money. She had disability from her job and was getting by. But that’s dried up now, and she is dependent on Social Security disability, which isn’t quite enough.

Through her doctors, Andrews and Patel Associates, she sought help from Vicki’s Angel Foundation. She received gift cards for gas so she can drive back and forth to treatment. The foundation also filled the propane tank at her home to keep her warm and cozy inside.

 Joy said she was surprised by how quickly the foundation stepped into help. It was a whole lot easier than dealing with government red tape, she said.

 Easing worries about money is a blessing to Joy and others battling cancer. The financial devastation cancer can cause is something most people don’t think about.

“I never realized how bad cancer is, not just for me,” Joy said. “It affects your whole family.”

 “People with cancer need little things,” she said. “Make a meal, shovel their snow. Just be there to listen. And donate financially if you can.”

 “Vicki’s Angels is a wonderful organization,” Joy said. “They are just outstanding.”

                                                        -written by Nancy Eshelman