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November 22, 2012

Giving Thanks: Reflecting on cancer battle, Jackie and Harold Taylor count their blessings

(Continued)

NEW CASTLE — MAKING PROGRESS

Despite her positive attitude, the treatments wore Jackie out and she spent weeks on the couch of her Grigsby Street home.

“I couldn’t even go upstairs to say goodnight to the boys,” she said. “My spirit was there, but my energy was gone.”

She lost her appetite and 30 pounds in the process, but one craving remained.

“I wanted sauce,” she said. “Every day, I felt like the only thing I wanted was a big bowl of sauce. It just tasted really good to me for some reason. One day when I was at my lowest, sitting at home all alone, my neighbor stopped over and said ‘what can I get you?’ and I started to cry and said, ‘I want sauce, I just want a bowl of sauce.

“She said, ‘oh, good, because I have a big pot on my stove that I just made,’ and she ran over and brought me back spaghetti and a meatball and lots of sauce. It was the best sauce that I ever had.’

“It was a little thing, but it just meant so much to me at that moment.”

As badly as Jackie felt during the late-summer months, good things actually were starting to happen.

She was told that all-important tumor markers in her blood would monitor her progress.

“They started out at 483 when I was diagnosed and they needed to be less than 21,” she said. “We were told that they probably wouldn’t come down all that quickly, but as long as they were coming down, not going up, the chemo was working.”

Jackie’s tumor markers made an incredible drop to 269 following her first chemo treatment in June. After her second treatment, they were 94.2.

Shortly after her chemo ended Sept. 25, her tumor markers were 23.

RELIEVING A BURDEN

Jackie’s illness took a financial toll on the family as the months progressed. While his wife was unable to work, Harold took some time off from his job as a utility worker at Pennsylvania American Water Co. to get her through the roughest days.

“We did not have any savings, but the bills kept coming in,” Jackie said. “Insurance covered a good portion of my hospital, doctor and prescription bills, but month after month, there were a lot more bills than there was money.

“I know Harold was intercepting the mail so I couldn’t see what we were up against,” she added.

“Yeah, I tried to shield her as much as possible,” Harold said. “She had enough to worry about. I had to be strong for her. There were days when I cried like a 10-year-old girl, but she never saw me do it. When you’re done crying, what do you do? You pick yourself up and turn to your faith. Our faith has been the basis of our sanity.”

It was during their time of need, as the Taylors learned, that they reaped what they had sown as good neighbors and friends for so many in the past. Jackie’s GAP co-workers treated her to a shopping spree to buy some new clothes. And nearly every day, the mail brought cards and donations that lifted the Taylors’ spirits and lightened their load.

“Every time I was sure that we were at rock-bottom, that we weren’t going to be able to pay a utility bill, or get the medicine we needed, a card would come in the mail with a check inside,” Harold said. “Sometimes we’d open an envelope and find cash inside with no name. When we had a need, somehow it would be met.

“Anyone who says that there is so much bad in New Castle needed to spend time in our home over the past couple of months. “We were blessed by the amazing, kind-hearted people in this town.”

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