Family loses husband to cancer, seeks aid | Local News

Last Christmas was not a happy one for the Lewis family.

Jesse Lewis, a 35-year-old father of two, was diagnosed with stage four metastatic kidney cancer. His father, Skip, had just passed away unexpectedly.

This year’s holiday season is even bleaker. There is an empty stocking on their cloak and a gaping hole in their hearts.

Over the past year, Jesse’s cancer continued to spread and became increasingly aggressive.

Despite the hard times, the family came together. His wife, Marlena, and their children, Hayle and Lil’ Jesse, did everything they could to support him.

But the bad news just kept coming.

“With every doctor’s visit, a pattern quickly developed,” said Audrey Lewis, Jesse’s sister-in-law. “There was no good news. His blood count had dropped, the cancer was spreading to new places, and the treatments were becoming less and less effective.”

At the end of October, doctors told the family that there was nothing that could be done. The words tore them apart, she said.

“Within those weeks, what was left of Jesse’s physical strength began to weaken, but his spiritual determination was stronger than ever. Jesse chose to spend his time at home under the care of his loving and devoted wife Marlena,” she said.

His final weeks were spent with frequent visits from those he loved. He embraced them, held their hands and spoke his ever-present words of wisdom.”

On November 17, Jesse died at home surrounded by his family.

Although they were all devastated by the loss, the lives of Marlena and her children are irrevocably broken.

“Their great love has also caused Marlena insurmountable grief. Losing Jesse to her was like losing half of herself and creating a void that can never be filled. She said, “When he took his last breath, it was like mine stopped too.” As she struggles to find a sense of comfort for herself, she also comforts her children,” said Audrey Lewis.

The children, ages 12 and 8, are faced with a grief that is beyond their comprehension. In the weeks since his death, their young minds have constantly outlined all the things they will never be able to do with their father.

“They mourn the words that will never be spoken, the feelings that he will never share with them,” she said. “The kids are trying to cope, clinging to memories, but grief is hard to understand for so young.”

In addition to the emotional devastation, there is the colossal financial burden left behind by medical debt. Daily expenses are also piling up.

Jesse was a bricklayer and the sole breadwinner in the family, but during the time he battled cancer – two years – he was unable to work. His wife was also unable to keep a job as her husband required 24-hour care.

Today the family is in dire straits.

“We will continue to do everything for them, but we know they need more help than we can give,” said Audrey Lewis. “Marlena’s role has changed from a supportive wife and homemaker to the sole breadwinner as a newly widowed single parent.

“She has to find a way to provide for her family while they grieve…it’s a lot of pressure. It would be a blessing to her and their children to have time to adjust and just grieve. Our greatest wish would be to remove all her financial burdens, but even a little bit of support would mean the world to them and all of us.”

To do that, they again hang their hopes on the kindness of strangers. Last year, the community opened its heart to the family and provided an overwhelming response to their need as Jesse Lewis began his battle with cancer.

They are in dire need of another holiday miracle.

In a recent Facebook post, Audrey Lewis’s husband and Jesse Lewis’ brother, Russell, shared their struggles.

“Unfortunately, my brother didn’t have life insurance and now his family needs some help,” he wrote.

“Everything (donated) goes directly to his wife and children. Whether we raise enough to pay off some debt and lower her monthly bills, or just enough to run errands for a few weeks, my family will be eternally grateful.”

The Lewises have created a Go Fund Me page for Marlena Lewis and the kids: 2997b0df.

Despite all the pain, Audrey Lewis says the family holds on to the memory of a beautiful soul.

“Jesse was the mainstay of this family… the guiding light. He was a kind, compassionate, loving Christian. In his final weeks, he’d said a few times, ‘Anyway, I’ll win,’ she recalled.

“He knew the reality of his illness. Although Jesse didn’t want to die, he knew he would be in heaven. Though he was in constant pain, Jesse continued to speak words of comfort and encouragement to his family. He prepared them and himself for what was to come.”

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