Until recently, Craig Stevens expected to live until he was 80.
Three days before Christmas, the 52-year-old Glide resident was checked at a hospital for abdominal pain and learned he had liver cancer.
Stevens has sought treatment at an Arizona cancer center in hopes of extending his life, though his doctors give him four months to two years to live.
“It was like a life-stopper, is what it was,” Stevens said. “Everything was just going great and now it’s come to a screeching stop.”
The Glide community has rallied around Stevens and his wife, Kim Rennings, to help pay medical bills and travel expenses.
For an auction and yard sale this weekend at the Glide Community Center, residents have donated items including snowmobiles and a stay at Steamboat Inn.
Before he was diagnosed with cancer, Stevens believed he had a pretty good life. He loves his job as a wastewater treatment operator for Orenco, enjoys traveling with his wife of 12 years and likes living in a rural neighborhood off Little River Road.
Initially, doctors attributed his pain to a flare-up in his pancreas. Then they discovered tumors on his liver.
A friend whose wife had received treatment at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America near Phoenix recommended a consultation. Stevens flew there in January and learned that the cancer had metastasized and that it originated in his bile duct.
For 10 weeks, he visited the center weekly for chemotherapy treatments. He flew to Phoenix each Thursday, got treatments on Friday and flew back on Saturday. Doctors also routed radiation-infused glass beads through a large blood vessel in his groin to clog the vein feeding the tumor. He plans to return to the center later this summer to check the effects of the treatment.
“The quality of the treatment I’m getting is awesome,” he said.
Stevens said he hopes to return to work when his medical leave expires in a few weeks.
“I can’t afford to lose my insurance. If we lost that, I don’t know what would happen,” he said.
Stevens said there is more he wants to do with his life. He would like to resume traveling. He and his wife have enjoyed trips to the Caribbean, Belize and Mexico.
“We’re just in this little bitty place about that big,” he said, holding two fingers close together. “The world is huge out there.”
He said he wants to replace corroded water pipes in the couple’s home so that Rennings won’t have to handle that problem without his help.
Despite his doctors’ grim predictions, Stevens remains upbeat.
“You’ve got to have a good outlook because if you don’t, you’re going to sink quicker,” he said.
One of the tougher challenges of having cancer is reaching out for help with the bills, Stevens said. The couple estimate they are about $10,000 in debt between the cancer treatment and back surgery Stevens had last year.
“It’s hard to ask for help. You’ve got your pride, and it’s hard to let somebody help you, but now we need it,” he said.
Once they asked, donations began pouring in. Orenco employees filled a semitrailer with items for this weekend’s sale, and Glide Baptist Church parishioners brought four or five vehicle loads, Rennings said.
Steamboat Inn, where Rennings is a cook, donated an overnight stay, with dinner and a breakfast for two. Spirit River donated a case of flies designed for fishing the North Umpqua River. Other donations include a rafting trip and flowers.
Rennings said boxes of items for this weekend’s sale are piling up in the couple’s home and yard.
“I’m living like a hoarder right now,” she said.
Rennings said organizing this weekend’s sale helps keep her mind off the sad truth.
“This isn’t a curable cancer,” Rennings said.
Rennings said she prefers to maintain the fantasy that he will survive the ailment anyway.
“Our hope is always that they will find a cure while they’re keeping him going,” she said.
• You can reach reporter Carisa Cegavske at 541-957-4213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.