Local family asks your help for brain cancer patient

Jamie and Craig Willoughby (Photo by Urban Expressions Photography)
Jamie and Craig Willoughby (Photo by Urban Expressions Photography)

By Susan Johnson
Copy Editor

A local family is dealing with a personal nightmare, and they request any help the community can give. Craig Willoughby, his wife Jamie, and their 16-month-old son are facing the ordeal of a monster brain tumor that hit them suddenly and hard.

Craig, 23, and his wife, Jamie, had just celebrated their second wedding anniversary Oct. 6. The next evening, they were sitting in SwedishAmerican Hospital dreading what the doctors had to tell them.

Monday, Oct. 6, was the last day Craig worked at his job at Barnes International in Rockford. His wife, Jamie, told The Rock River Times: “We went to the emergency room on the 7th. We thought they were just evaluating him for migraines. We were sitting in the back room waiting, and the ER doctor finally came in. They did the CT scan, and it came back abnormal. The doctor told him, ‘You have a very, very large tumor in the front lobe.’ He admitted [Craig] overnight and did the MRI and met with the neurologist the next day. Dr. Asner (the neurologist) told us that it was a malignant brain tumor — bigger than the size of a baseball, much worse than what he had expected. From that point on, it was pretty much [decided]. He said, ‘You know, I deal with about a dozen brain tumors a year, but nothing like this.’ He didn’t want to attempt surgery. He saw the MRI, and I think it scared him.

We went to Madison, Wisconsin, and met with the neurologist Dr. Baskasa. We were told that if anybody could remove it, it would be him. (The tumor was identified as a mixed glioma/oligoastrocytoma, Grade 2.) It was a very complex case, but he felt confident that he could remove it without any problem. The surgery was on the 14th to remove the tumor. He believed that he had removed 100 percent of it. But the MRI afterward showed some areas that could be still existing. Craig will be treated with radiation and chemo in Madison. They cannot do it in Rockford.”

Craig will go into Madison Friday, Nov. 7, for another MRI and to make a mask of his head so he can start radiation, which is expected to last six weeks. This treatment will have to be done in Madison. Jamie added: “As far as chemo goes, we’re still waiting for results on a couple other tests to find out the prognosis and how well he will respond to chemo. So far, one test showed that his body should respond positively to radiation because of a DNA mutation called IDH. We learned that numbness in his hand and face that he was having during the migraines prior to diagnoses were actually seizures, along with his vision loss. Craig was told that he has had the tumor for a very long time, possibly from birth, and that everything about this is extremely rare and unique. Because of the location, type and size, they are worried about him losing his eyesight and testosterone from radiation.”

The type of radiation to be used is IMRT (intensity modulate radio therapy), which is not available in Rockford. At least 30-33 treatments of radiation are needed. The family is still waiting for results for MGMT and 1P/19Q, which are chromosome tests for prognosis of the outcome of chemo.

Now, the family is faced with the challenge of raising funds to compensate for the costs of medical expenses and time off work related to Craig’s battle against brain cancer. He has already made some major steps against it, but he has a long road ahead of him, including radiotherapy and chemotherapy. At the time of the surgery, the Willoughbys were already living paycheck to paycheck, and both have had to take a lot of time off work since then. Bills have begun stacking up, and many more are to follow. Insurance costs approximately $130 a week, and during radiation, that is more than $780 for insurance alone. That does not include hotel stays, gas and meals, nor their current debts or regular bills, rent, and car payment.

Craig and his family still need all the help they can get, including prayers, positive thoughts, and financial contributions. Even just $5 or $10 will help. Donations can be made online at https://www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/yy46/craig-s-battle-against-brain-cancer. The family has also set up an account at Blackhawk Bank, all locations. Checks should be made payable to “Craig Willoughby Benefit Account.” A fund-raiser benefit will be from 1 to 6 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 6,. at 3 Sheets Pub, 122 W. Main St., Rockton. Rockford First will also take donations at the door for a movie showing of Holy Ghost Thursday, Nov. 6, at 6:30 p.m. All contributions will be appreciated.

From the Nov. 5-11, 2014, issue

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