Will's brother, Chris Carleton, is his wife Dale's backbone too. Only it's an even more apt metaphor for them.
See, spinal cancer literally broke Dale's back. A few years ago, Dale started experiencing horrible back pain. At first she tried chiropractic care and massage therapy, neither of which eased the agonizing pain. She turned to her doctor. After months of tests and surgery and more tests, it was discovered that my sister-in-law is actually the one-in-a-million person we all think she is: she has an extremely rare kind of cancer, Epithelioid Hemangioendothelioma (EHE). Not only is Dale's type of cancer rare--EHE accounts for less than .01 percent of the cancer population--most of those cases are primarily in the liver or lungs. Having EHE of the spine makes it even more rare. Less than 1 in a million.
Chris and Dale have manged the best they can since the cancer was discovered. "Whatever it takes," is their family motto. Dale lost her ability to walk, and then through tons of effort regained it again, although she has limited mobility. You can read more about Dale's journey on her inspirational blog, Falling Down Gracefully.
Dale's confined to a two room area of their house because she can't manage stairs. Chris works during the day, then comes home and takes care of most of the housework and cooking. I don't know how he does it. I complain if I have to work a 3 hour shift and then come home to load the dishwasher.
They have three amazing elementary school-age children (who I try to steal as often as I can for sleepovers at our house). Dale helps the kids with their homework and when she's feeling up to it, treats them to homemade pancakes. She can stand in the kitchen for short periods, but she needs to keep a wheelchair close by in case the nerves that were damaged from the spinal tumor spaz out on her.
Dale would like to help Chris more. Things most parents take for granted. Complain about. Dale would love to have a chance to do mundane things like chauffering the kids to school and activities, going to the grocery store, and running endless errands for the family, things Chris has had to do since Dale first became sick. But she's stuck in the house, in her two rooms, most of the time. She can drive, but she can't load her wheelchair onto the lift by herself. Wouldn't it be awesome if she had one of those adapted vans that have a mechanical lift where she could just ride her chair up into the van by herself? Then she could take care of the household errands during the day while Chris was at work and the kids were in school.
With three kids, it's challenging for the whole family to go anywhere with their limited transportation options. There's barely enough space for all of them, plus Dale's chair, in the minivan. The other night Katie and her second-grade classmates gave a music performance at school. She was so happy to see her Uncle Chris and Aunt Dale and her three Carleton cousins in the audience. I know how much of a pain in the ass it is for Chris to load Dale's chair into the van, how much more planning and time it takes to get everyone out of the house and strapped into the car, so I appreciate that they made the effort to come. Wouldn't it be awesome if they had one of those adapted vans that would fit two adults, three kids, and a wheelchair easily? Think of all the fun family outings you get to do without so much as a thought about how easy it is for you all to hop in the car and take off toward your destination.
The problem is, kick ass vans that have been adapted for people who live with a disablity are crazy expensive. I can't even afford an ordinary new van, let alone a new wheelchair-adapted van. Neither can my brother-in-law and sister-in-law. They have huge medical bills. They live on one income. With three kids. During these tough economic times. They need a break.
Fortunately, there's a way we can help them. Because of all the amazing things Chris does for their family, Dale nominated him for a "local heroes" contest through The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA), a non-profit organization dedicated to expanding mobility options for people with disabilities. The grand prize is an NMEDA-approved wheelchair-adapted van!
Every day you can go to their website and vote for Chris Carleton. Make sure to click "extra vote" first. If you answer the question correctly, you'll give Chris two votes for the day. (Psst! If you follow Dale on Facebook, she gives away the answers each day, so you don't even have to do any research.)
Let me know what questions you have in the comments field below. Thank you so much for supporting my family! May the love and support you share with us be returned to you in magical ways.