Editor’s note: This is the third and final in a series of stories about citizens of Obion County who have been or are being helped by the Obion County Cancer Agency with funds raised through Obion County Hometown Walk of Hope.
By DONNA RYDER
Losing his mother to lung cancer was hard, but finding out his daughter had leukemia just six months after his loss was devastating.
Brad Pate of Troy shared his story Wednesday in hopes that Obion County residents will embrace the local Obion County Hometown Walk of Hope effort to raise money for local cancer patients.
Pate said his now 8-year-old daughter, Braylin, was first diagnosed with the disease at the age of 2. He said he and Braylin’s mother, Roxanne Pate of South Fulton, first noticed there was something wrong with Braylin when she started having high fevers. Then a cut on her foot would not heal. When her fever spiked to 106 degrees, the Pates took their daughter to the hospital and, after blood tests, she was flown to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis. He said further tests showed no blast (immature blood cells) in her blood and, at first, doctors thought she had a bad virus, but after seven days, she was transferred to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis for a bone marrow biopsy. It was there the family received the diagnosis.
Pate said the doctors at St. Jude jumped on the leukemia with a Protocol 15 treatment, injecting chemotherapy drugs directly into her heart through a line they called her “buddy.” The treatment quickly got her into remission, but she had to endure three more years of treatments.
While in Memphis, Pate and Braylin’s mother stayed at the Ronald McDonald House. He said the first time it was for 14 weeks, then off and on for a total of 21 weeks. One or the other, or both, would travel to Memphis weekly for Braylin to receive her treatments. On those days, Pate, who worked at the former Goodyear plant in Union City at the time, would have to take off work. Ms. Pate was a stay-at-home mom. He now works at Titan in Union City, while she works at MTD in Martin.
He said the shock of the cancer diagnosis was hard for them and their other children — Jack, age 11; and her children, Brianna, age 17, and Brooklyn, age 19. He said Brooklyn stepped in and grew up fast to help take care of the family while Braylin’s parents were with her in Memphis. “It was a hardship on everybody,” he said.
His mother, the late Ruthie Pate, had been a nurse at Goodyear. She was 63 when she died. Pate said she left him enough money that they were able to take care of the added expenses for the first year. “It was pretty tough, but God is good,” he said.
Pate’s father, Buck, said residents in Troy and Union City helped out the family. “You don’t realize all the bills until they all pile up,” Buck Pate said.
The pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Union City knew of the plight of the Pate family and mentioned the family’s needs to Teresa Vinson, who is an Obion County Cancer Agency board member and this year’s honorary Walk of Hope chairman. Mrs. Vinson brought it before the board and the agency called the Pate family to see what needs they might have. At that point, monthly monetary gifts helped the family with daily expenses. “There’s no way we would have made it financially,” Brad Pate said, adding, “Basically, they helped pay a big part of our bills and, at that time, with a family of six, it was tough.”
Brad Pate said he had given small donations to Walk of Hope before the cancer diagnosis, but didn’t really fully understand the impact Walk of Hope has on Obion Countians. Even during that first year, he said they were in too much shock over the diagnosis and everything that followed to think about asking the organization for help.
“Now, it’s a huge deal,” he said, adding Braylin considers the survivors lap to be her Super Bowl victory lap every year. He said he and her mother walk with Braylin around the track at Union City High School for that lap every year, even though he and Ms. Pate are no longer married.
“Walk of Hope is huge and we’re glad it helps local people,” Brad Pate said, adding, “The money we raise, it helps us. We know where it’s going. … If I give a dollar, I know it helps someone here and is not going to someone in an office somewhere.”
Braylin is currently in remission and will be considered cancer-free five years from her last treatment, which was taken in April 2009. Brad Pate said she has had some ill effects from the chemotherapy, including slow speech and a lowered mental capacity. She recently completed first grade taking CDC classes at Lake Road. She also recently had to have 11 teeth pulled. Her next check up is set in June.
Walk of Hope is scheduled for June 2 from 4 p.m. until midnight at War Memorial Stadium. Residents are encouraged to visit during the day’s events, purchase supper and play games to help raise money for the worthy cause.
Associate Editor Donna Ryder can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in The Messenger 5.25.12