Here is a story you won’t soon forget. This is Steve Milano aka The Big Ragu. Typically I write about local restaurants and local eats. No Food Adventures today. Today, instead we give you some food for thought.
While most people are making plans and new year’s promises, others are making very simple ones. Their new year’s resolutions are to continue the fight, to live, to survive. This article is not only about a lifelong Dayton resident, it is about every person right now who is in a life and death battle with an illness. It is a lesson for all of us to remember.
Flashback 30 years ago, to August, 1987. The Centerville football team locker room empties as the players trot down the gravel to the practice field. It has been a long 8 months of weight lifting and conditioning. The original crowd in January of 100 perspective players has dwindled down to about 50. The ones who are left are preparing for their first game. One of those who persevered is a sophomore named Craig Jolly. Craig was strong, and motivated. Even then he was a fighter and a survivor in every sense of the word. I know. I was a senior playing offensive line too, and he was right there every practice, every step of the way.
Today, Craig has a family. He has a local home with his wife Kim and two young daughters. Unfortunately, Craig has something else. He has a battle to fight. But that is ok, because to his family, he is Superman. On July 14th, 2016 Craig was diagnosed with a Grade 4 Glioblostoma tumor, the most deadly and aggressive form of brain cancer there is. He was told then that the median life expectancy was 16 months.
Ironically this being the holiday season, jolly is a word used quite often in songs, holiday movies and tv shows. Their whole life, they lived with this name, Jolly. They are straining to hold onto that faith and their namesake.
His sister, Heather summed up the situation best on his DONATION PAGE:
Craig doesn’t live like he is dying. Craig lives like he is living.
And he always has. My brother has an enthusiasm for life, like I’ve never known. He effortlessly fills a room. He’s not just a piece of a part, he’s the whole show. He tells the jokes, and then he laughs at them too. And once you’ve heard his laugh you’ll remember it all your life. It bounces off walls and echoes down halls and it is unbelievably and undeniably infectious.
Craig isn’t just living, Craig is life.
He is the pulse of our family. The heartbeat of our home. And the first love of my life.
I have watched Craig fight, everyday these last 5 months. Everyday he fights. But he’s not just fighting cancer he’s fighting all the sadness and headache that comes with its demons.
That come with dying. But you’d never know. If he gets down, he gets back up.
Every. Single. Day. He fights.
He fights for happiness, for love and for joy. He fights for laughing and smiling and living out loud. He fights for Kim and for Evan and for Anne.
And everyday he wins.
I will be in awe of his strength, determination, and optimism for the rest of my life. I will be devoted, admire and respect him, for the rest his.
Craig has decided not return to work. His wife Kim has taken an immediate indefinite leave of absence from her work to devote herself to his round the clock care. They have spent money investigating countless studies, trials and equipment in pursuit of any glimpse of hope. But it doesn’t matter. Their commitment to each other is endless. .
Craig’s sister Heather describes Kim and Craig’s interaction:
Kim’s look is one of unconditional, unwavering, endless love. She has been our rock. Craig’s is one of a man completely still smitten, 20 years later. I see gratitude in his embrace and the hardest part is, I see an apology in his eyes.
I’m sorry we didn’t get forever. I’m sorry you’ll raise our children alone.
A PLAN OF ATTACK:
Heather goes on to explain that in late November/early December, doctors learned that Craig’s tumor despite being cut out, despite being radiated, despite being starved with a ketogenic diet, despite being poisoned with chemotherapy, is back, and has very aggressively grown and spread throughout his brain. But here’s the thing, you’d never know that either. Craig’s entire brain is swollen, shifted past midline, and infected with tumor. And yet he’s still just laughing, loving, living Craig. Is it sheer willpower? Or is it a miracle?
Surgery: Craig had decided to go forward on December 29th, with a very involved tenuous second craniotomy where they will remove all areas of tumor, a significant part of his brain and then inject a trial vaccine into the cavity to try to eradicate it. Craig fully understood the risks and possible outcomes. But you see, Craig is a fighter. He wants to go down swinging.
He wants to live life… living, as his family says.
Craig knew that regardless of the outcome, the knowledge gained from this trial will eventually help others.
The family asked Craig the week of his diagnosis 5 months ago if his sister could make him a “Go Fund Me” page, knowing very well
the catastrophic cost that come with terminal diagnosis’s. His pride just smiled, shook his head and declined.
“We’re okay he said, we don’t need it now.”
This time Heather didn’t ask him. This time she is asking anyone to help. He needs it now.
Heather wanted to raise money so Craig could enjoy these moments free of financial worry. So he can have some relief to spend time with his family stress free. So he can continue to spend his time living his life living, for all the days of his life.
Heather writes: “And I would be absolutely grateful beyond measure, if you would help me. #oursuperman”
UPDATE DECEMBER 28th – THE POWER OF POSITIVITY, PERSEVERANCE and PRAYER:
The family has been holding onto hope this holiday season. Again, Craig’s little sister writes on her Facebook page:
“Hope has been a word that’s hard to get close to these days. Hope has an electric fence wrapped and entangled around it; you can only get shocked by it so many times before you stop trying to get near it. There’s been so many times along this journey that we’ve gotten too close to Hope only to be jolted, thrown back in the air, and dropped to the ground.
But that wasn’t today. Today Hope knocked one out of the park.”
“I’ve never seen anything like it.” Not exactly the words you expect to hear from your neurosurgeon the night before brain surgery. My pre-operative MRI was significantly improved to the point that he had to double-check to be sure it was still mine. Mid-line shift was gone, swelling was down, and new lesions are now imperceptible. The main tumor that was 5.7 (and too large for me to qualify for the Tocogen trial) was now at 4.3cm. They’ve already submitted paperwork to see if I can re-qualify for the Toca trial, but for now we are standing down – no surgery tomorrow!!
And. . . exhale. This punctuates a couple day stretch where both car
batteries died, our dishwasher and sink broke, our basement flooded and we had to rush to the hospital to get a platelet draw again to see if I could even do surgery. Seriously, what a roller coaster.I’m gonna curl up in a warm bed and sleep well tonight. Or maybe now. Now feels good. . . “
It is great news heading into the new year and we wish Craig continued improvements. We hope this story is an inspiration and lesson to many. Please note as you ring in the new year. Some have resolutions that may be way different than yours. Take a lesson from perseverance and never giving up.
We wish a fantastic new year to Craig and his family and everyone who took time to read this article.
In 2017, you never know who will step out and be a superhero, but the Jolly family definitely has a #Superman.
If you would like to help donate to Craig’s cause, click the Go fund me links above or go to his Caring Bridge site HERE.