I don’t know Kyle Gendron, except socially. We say hello at functions, make small talk, and now and then, I post on his Facebook page “Wow!” and “Amazing!” because he is such a superb photographer.
When I e-mail him sometimes for advice about photography, he always e-mails back.
I met him four or five years ago in Burlington, where he lives with his wife and three children. His daughter, Mary Elizabeth, 7, and my granddaughter Lucy, 9, both have Down syndrome. So we go to the same fund-raisers and the same annual convention.
Kyle takes pictures at the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress convention and at its Buddy Walk, and at all the other gatherings that the organization and its affiliates have.
Besides being a husband, a father, and working full time, he is a you-can-always-count-on-him volunteer.
Every time I talk to him, he is upbeat. How’s your family? Great. How’s life been treating you? No complaints. How did you get those shots of the kids with the white background?
Never mind that I’m an amateur and he is way, way past me in the photography department. He always takes the time to explain what he did to get the perfect shot.
When he was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer early this year, I thought, Oh, no. This is not good. Oh, no, his kids are so young. What is his wife going to do? What about his job? How will he be able to work? What will they do for money? He won’t take his beautiful pictures any more.
He must have been scared at first. He must have cried. I’m sure he is scared and cries sometimes even now.
But the face he has shown to the world for the last seven months has been not just brave, but cheerful. “How are you?” still met by a smile and “I’m doing great.” “How’s it going?” still answered with a thumbs-up.
After every chemo treatment, Kyle posts an update on Facebook. This saves him from having to tell everyone individually what’s happening, medically. These updates are fresh and honest, so parts are hard to read. “Chemo Fatigue sucks. Especially after the steroids wear off. Man it hits hard and fast.”
But they’re positive, too. “Finally heard back from Dana-Farber on the CT Scan comparison . . . it looks like the tumors have shrunk a little more than 25% and there are NO new tumors. GREAT NEWS!!”
Two weeks ago, on Oct. 22, after his 14th chemo treatment, Kyle wrote a simple “All went well.”
And then came the grim details about what is next: five days of high-dose radiation beginning Nov. 26, followed by major surgery on Dec. 10 to remove the primary tumor in his rectum and half of his liver tumors.
“There is a good chance that I’ll have a temporary ostomy,” Kyle explained. “Then 2-3 months later when they do the surgery to remove the ostomy (called reversal, basically reattach the colon back to the rectum) they will also at that time remove the remaining tumors in the liver. . . . As you can imagine,” he unimaginably added, “this is excellent news.”
This is pure Kyle.
Neuropathy. Sensitivity to cold. Exhaustion. Yes, he has them all.
“But the numbers are down and that’s great,” he insists.
I look on Facebook, and in every picture of Kyle he is smiling.
It must be hard to stay upbeat and cheerful when you’re sick and exhausted and your income has been gutted and you have bills to pay and three kids to take care of.
But he doesn’t do it alone. And he tells you this. He gets support not just from his wife, his kids, and his family but from people who know him or just know about him.
People cook meals and deliver them. They pay for meals to be delivered. They help with the kids. They drive. They shop. His family set up a Web page for donations — http://www.giveforward.com/supportkylegendron — and have sponsored fund-raisers, too.
“I can’t thank everyone enough for everything and anything you do. Your support makes a huge difference financially, mentally, emotionally, everything,” Kyle wrote. “I feel so lucky to have such a great family and have made such wonderful friendships.”
His family and friends know what he means, because they feel so lucky to have him.Beverly Beckham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.