By Polly Keary, Editor
At 41 and healthy, Calvin Bradham didn’t have any reason to think that the swelling in his legs last summer was anything more than a reaction to working too many hours during a buyout of the business for which he worked.
At 42, he is fighting for his life, and a large number of people in the community are fighting with him, as he and his family face off against the cancer that struck quickly and savagely, spreading through the young father’s system and throwing his family’s lives, and finances, into turmoil.
Stephonie Bradham, daughter of former Sky Valley Food Bank director Julie Morris and granddaughter of food bank founder Julia V. Morris, met her husband Calvin at Monroe High School, where they were high school sweethearts.
They took some time to settle down, dating for 10 years before marrying in 1999.
“Yesterday we celebrated out 14-year anniversary,” said Stephonie Thursday.
They had a son, Tyler, now 11, and made a home in Monroe. While Tyler was young, Stephonie ran a daycare so she could stay home with him. Now he is home schooled through Sky Valley Education Center.
Calvin was working for Anheiser Busch as a distributor, climbing ever higher in the ranks until he was in the top four people in the regional company. Things were going well.
Then, in the summer of 2012, Calvin started having trouble with his legs.
“His legs started swelling up like tree trunks,” said Stephonie. “They were huge.”
He went to the doctor and got x-rays, and at first the doctor suspected diabetes. But the swelling wouldn’t stop.
“Every day he would gain a couple pounds and the doctor finally said, ‘If you keep swelling over the weekend, go to the ER.’”
Calvin’s swelling got worse, so he went in and had a CT scan.
“They asked him, ‘Have they told you that you have cancer?'” said his wife.
It was a shock. Calvin learned that he already had cancer in his esophagus, liver and lungs. He immediately began treatment with the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, starting on chemotherapy and radiation. A year ago in October he finished the treatment.
Two months later, his cancer, which was diagnosed as terminal small-cell lung cancer, was back.
Subsequent efforts to fight it proved unsuccessful.
Six weeks ago, doctors gave Calvin a choice, He could try a new kind of chemotherapy that could offer him a 10 percent chance of survival. It will, at best, be a course of treatment he will have to continue indefinitely. Or he could instead choose to go on hospice care.
“He’s a fighter,” said Stephonie. “He’s trying it, and the cancer is shrinking. His legs feel like they are on fire and there are lesions around his spinal cord, and he starts chemo again next week, and that’s where we are at.”
Cancer, it seemed, had surrounded Stephonie. Her twin sister was also fighting breast cancer last summer, and Stephonie volunteered to care for her three children as much as she could.
“I had my twin sister and Calvin on chemo at the same time, and radiation,” she said. “It was a lot.”
Stephonie’s friends grew concerned, and started looking for ways to help out. Two weekends ago, they organized a work party to help out around her place, and 22 people turned out to fix garage doors, repair the gutters and paint.
Saturday there will be a spaghetti feed fundraiser in Renton.
Friends are raising money through the crowd-sourcing site Fundrazr, a site similar to Kickstarter, but for causes instead of creative projects.
In just 13 days, 28 contributors have pledged $4,450 of the goal of $5,000.
And on the Facebook page Bradham’s Heroes, established by the family’s supporters, friends and family keep in touch and share news of efforts to help out. The page has 215 supporters.
Lastly, there is a charitable bank account established at Key Bank in the name of Tyler Bradham, Stephonie and Calvin’s son.
Through the stress of the illness and the financial strain brought about by the couple’s reduced ability to earn and the medical expenses that insurance didn’t cover, there have been bright spots.
The company for which Calvin works treated him to a golf tournament in San Diego last week, where he had lots of help getting around the course.
“There’s a group of men golfing with him today, and they’ll hand him his clubs,” said Mrs. Bradham. “He’s definitely handicapped. It’s a struggle. But it’s been a wonderful experience for him.”
And the support of the community has been nothing short of amazing, she said.
“There are so many blessings that have come along. It’s amazing the people who rally for us, people I haven’t seen since junior high,” she said. “This tight-knit community we have, this is astounding.”
They also have a strong faith that sustains them, she said.
And although the challenges facing Calvin are large, Stephonie knows he’ll face them with determination.
“My husband is strong, mentally tough; he is a fighter, a great dad, and a great husband,” she said. “He doesn’t give up.”
To learn more about how to help the Bradham family, visit www.fundrazr.com and enter Calvin Bradham into the search bar, or find Bradham’s Heroes on Facebook.